Tag Archives: cocktails

Whole Wheat Lemon Mint Olive Oil Cake (Vegan) for a Farm Cookout

“Farming is a strange combination of forced patience and instant gratification,” is how local farmer Tara Rockacy explained her endeavor, and she would know! The lady has been moving and hustling, expanding, growing and evolving with each season, from CSAs to goats emerging from new barns to mingle with the city’s top chefs. The “forced patience” aspect reminded me how a farm must work in tune with the season and the elements. Unlike a business startup, there can’t be a complete change of direction mid-season. There can’t be a last-minute decision to focus on flowers because that’s what the market wants. That decision has to be planned and put in motion long before the competitive scrambling to catch a bridal bouquet. That’s why a bloom, at long last, is so instantly gratifying.

A Farm Cookout // www.WithTheGrains.com

Photo by Christopher Sprowls.

Nonetheless, my dreamer, imaginative, event designer, stylist side gets swept away with the farm’s full potential, until a brief reality check finds me ensnared in visions of long tables, farm-fresh bouquets, wedding vows amidst the basil, banjo nights, yoga by the hoop house, drawing classes with edible still lifes, herbalism workshops, etc, etc, etc. The “forced patience” is remembering the main goal for this season: to repair the soil, grow food and feed people. Everything else will come in its due time. Due time means starting small: one picnic table, four friends, and one enjoyable evening of just being on the farm.

A Farm Cookout // www.WithTheGrains.com

Photo by Christopher Sprowls.

“This is the first time I’ve had people on the farm and haven’t put them to work,” the Urban Farmer joked, and though the work is rewarding, just sitting, laughing and eating sausages was a welcomed change of pace.

A Farm Cookout // www.WithTheGrains.com

Photo by Christopher Sprowls.

Starting small, or simply starting, can be such a hurdle, so this cookout was a much needed reminder for me to slow down, enjoy this season, and take advantage of the here and now. I should probably plaster that reminder all over my apartment: Start small, start small, start small!


Photo by Christopher Sprowls.

Bricks that once clad homes on these vacant lots, were born again as a our fire pit, where we grilled sausage and smoky potato wedges with herbs. The Urban Farmer picked the salad straight from the ground- a flavorful mix with bitter, citrusy notes and crunch- a far cry from the plastic container of greens in the produce aisle. The watermelon was juicy, the cocktail was refreshing, the view of the city was stunning, and dessert was just the right mix of sweet and tart.

A Farm Cookout // www.WithTheGrains.com

Photo by Christopher Sprowls.

While my head will probably always spin with ideas and grand dreams, I’ll take plenty more of these small, first steps and remember to appreciate patience, albeit forced, and cherish the ensuing moments of instant gratification!



Whole Wheat Lemon Mint Olive Oil Cake & Sage Lemonade Cocktails

About These Recipes: Olive oil, lemon juice and lemon zest make this a moist, spongey cake fit for vegans and dairy-loving fools alike! Serve with homemade whipped cream, organic vanilla bean ice cream, or vegan whipped coconut cream. The cocktail is a loose recipe for a fruit-infused punch. Free of precise ratios, it’s an effective way to serve cocktails to multiple people. You’ll need a gallon jug or pitcher.

Whole Wheat Lemon Mint Olive Oil Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

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The Dandelion, An Empire & A Bit of London in Philly

May 2012

There were many motives for a Memorial Day Weekend in Philadelphia:  friends in need of a vistit, family, a variety of restaurants from which to choose, a cultural pull, the pulse of a bigger city and a bit of scheming that led me to a very special dinner. There’ll be more, much more, on that dinner later.  Once my special one agreed to support my Quelcadelphia whims, I began setting my food goals.

Hamburger research put The Dandelion high on my list of restaurant goals. Its metropolitan hommage reminded me of the very grand, inaugural adventure my special one and I made to London.  Consequently, the dapper and Dandy Lion introduced me to a well known name for Philly foodies, a name that is synonymous with “Philly food scene”- Stephen Starr.   At the young age of 21, Starr entered the restaurant business.  Fast forward a few decades, and his name is now behind several concept restaurants in Philly, a couple in New York and then some in Atlantic City and Florida (I have no goals for sampling from those last two locations).  After experiencing The Dandelion and a brunch spot, which I shall address in another post, I understood why the man had become an empire.

From street level, a tall, corner locale with a dim, warm glow from ornate bay windows caught my eye.  As I took in its stately elegance, my view shifted to the text on the streetlight style lamp above the door- The Dandelion!  We had arrived!

The Dandelion
18th and Sansom St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Neighborhoods: Rittenhouse Square, Penn Center

Scotch Honey Suckle
Dewar’s scotch, dry vermouth, honey, lemon, rose water

Smoky and floral all at once.  A solid choice for a slow sip.

Bourbon Ginger Fizz
Bulleit bourbon, ginger, lemon, bitters, egg white

Refreshing like a high quality soda.  I would have slurped this too quickly had it been my own rather than offered to me for a few sips.

Dandelion Salad
mixed greens & dandelion leaves, cucumber, avocado, lemon vinaigrette

This salad was the obvious choice based on its name, and for a simple salad with a few green accents, it packed a complexity of flavors stemming from the bitter (in a good way) greens and the extra buttery kick of the lemon vinaigrette.

Oysters Of The Day 
with shallot mignonette sauce

My special one is the oyster expert in our duo, and he said these were just the way he likes them- vinegary.  I can barely keep oysters and mussels straight (much to my special one’s disbelief), but oyster indifference aside, these shells even impressed me.

Berkshire Pork Paté
celeriac remoulade, shallot-pear chutney, wheat toast

The specificity of “Berkshire” in the name is what first drew me to this appetizer.  It’s a fitting choice of swine for a British inspired gastropub, since the Berkshire pigs originated on the fine soils of the Queen’s land.  It seems foolish to write, but what had me repeatedly dipping the knife into the paté was its meatier pork flavor versus the heavy notes of fat that often overpower a paté.  The shallot-pear chutney added the contrast of sweetness that pairs so well with pork, but I preferred the celeriac remoulade as a separate side dish (Pittsburghers would probably automatically use it as a sandwich topping due to its similarities with coleslaw).

House Blend Aged Beef Burger 
Vermont sharp cheddar, Brooklyn brine pickles, apple smoked bacon, special sauce

Our raison d’être- the burger that brought us to the table.  Jono took a big bite and then offered, “Don’t hate me for saying this, but it tastes like a Big Mac.” I couldn’t hate him for saying it (aside from being a rather minor reason to hate someone) because he was right. McDonalds hasn’t fed a nation on convenience alone.  The chain knows a thing or two about pleasing people.  I’m not throwing away all my food values.  I’m merely justifying an odd compliment because this burger tasted like a better Big Mac, and the thick french fries clearly had a stronger tie to the potato than the greasy lot of a Happy Meal.  Our burger search had not led us astray.

Lamb Shepherd’s Pie 
mashed potatoes, root vegetables

Succumbing to the tantalizing temptation of this shepherd’s pie results in a burned tongue. Beware!  However, when root vegetables and lamb are hidden under cheesy, mashed potatoes, a little burn is easily (or all too hastily?) ignored.

There was no room for dessert, but there was room for us at The Ranstead Room (which I documented here previously), located conveniently just a few blocks away!

Stephen Starr Addendum

Remember all the way to the top of this post when I used “Stephen Starr” and “empire” in the same sentence? I thought I was being hyperbolic, but when I looked for a Ranstead Room website, I found myself directed to none other than a Stephen Starr restaurant.  I felt deceived, dumbfounded and inspired all at once.  What I would describe as your hipster cousin’s attempts to redecorate your sleezy old uncle’s basement was a 100% intentional concept bar, and it had been fooling me this whole time!  I’ll still continue to go there when I’m in town, but now I know I should order the tacos too!

Stay tuned for more Quelcy in Philly adventures, or what I like to call… The Adventures of Quelcadelphia!


My Special One’s Birthday: Simple Syrup for Birthday Bourbons

April 2012

April marked another year in my special one’s life, but it also marked the start of a new chapter.  Shortly before his birthday, Jono signed his offer letter, thus accepting an important position at a company that will one day change the world!  The entire world!  It’s also the company that brought us together!  What is that company?  I leave you in suspense.  I spend 40+ hours a week talking about it, whereas, I do not spend nearly enough time talking about whiskey…

Ok…a tad more about my work… part of my job, at the mysterious company, is to make sure the movers and shakers enjoy their jobs, their spaces, represent our values, etc.  A whirlwind brought me into this atypical line of work, and though it’s not my dream job (still figuring out what my dream job is), it’s an amazing opportunity to be a part of something epic!  One of the most inspiring aspects of my day job is being surrounded by passionate, smart people who really, truly love what they are doing.  My special one loves what he is doing, and he worked really hard to get there.  He chalks a lot of his early success up to luck, but I give the credit to that big brain of his.  His foresight and dedication have served him well, and for that I offered a bourbon from the big leagues.  I also offered a silly little bottle ‘o Beam that he may stay humble, stay driven and stay crazy!

I do hope girlfriend privileges will merit a taste of that fancy jockey’s reserve, but for the birthday festivity, I stuck to my own supply.  For a sweet and peppery birthday cocktail, I infused a few extra flavors into a simple syrup.

Simple Syrup for Birthday Bourbons

1 cup water
1 cup turbinado sugar

Fresh blueberries, sliced
Pink Peppercorns
Fresh mint
A drizzle or so of pure maple syrup

Bring 2 cups of cold water to a boil. Stir in 2 cups of turbinado sugar. Turn the heat to low and stir constantly until the sugar dissolves completely.

Remove from heat and add your infusions.  Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Suggested serving:  Bourbon + bitters + simple syrup (on the rocks)

Bon Anniversaire Mon Amour et Santé!

Lobster By Night/Lobster By Day

Lobster by Night
March 2012 

It had been a while since the two of us had gathered at my dining room table, so I proposed a date of the domestic sort.  As I began menu scheming, I turned to the stained and tattered pages of my trusted America’s Test Kitchen magazine, through which I have faithfully been working.  When I saw a lobster recipe with the words “lazy man” in the title, I found that weekend’s winner!

Yes, that is frozen lobster.  I love him (↓), and I love a special dinner, but I was in no way prepared to teach myself how to thwack a bright red, living thing with grabbers and claws! Sorry friends.  Not this time!  My other justification was this- if I am going to teach myself how to thwack a bright red, living thing with grabbers and claws, I’m not going to cut up the meat and bake it in a gratin.

The recipe had me with this opening description…

Lobster is a classic choice for an elegant dinner for two.  Most people boil or steam their crustaceans and serve them whole with a side of drawn butter.  While there’s nothing wrong with this simple, traditional approach, fumbling around with a cooked lobster, hammering down on shells and poking around for meat isn’t exactly a tidy affair.  I wanted a refined lobster dinner for a couple that delivered the sweet, rich flavor of lobster and didn’t require a bib to eat.  – Dan Zuccarello, America’s Test Kitchen Books

Lazy Man’s Lobster for Two (By Night)
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen magazine


1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme
Dash of cayenne pepper
4 teaspoons whole-wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup red wine (cabernet sauvignon)
8 oz vegetable broth
1/3 cup organic heavy cream
12 ounces lobster meat (frozen), chopped coarse
1 Tablespoon minced fresh sage
Yakima smoked salt


1 slice high quality wheat bread
3 Tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 Tablespoon minced sage
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon paprika

For the Filling

Heat the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering.

Add the shallot and cook until the shallot is softened, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 30 seconds.

Stir in the red wine and simmer until it has nearly evaporated, about 2 minutes.

Stir in the thyme and cayenne.

Whisk in the broth and cream and simmer until the liquid has thickened and reduced to ¾ cup, 10-12 minutes.

Off the heat, add the cooked lobster meat and sage. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Divide the mixture evenly between two 2-cup gratin dishes (or similar baking dish).

For the Topping

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, and heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Pulse the bread in a food processor to coarse crumbs, about 10 pulses.

Combine the bread crumbs, the pecorino, sage, oil and paprika in a bowl.

Sprinkle the topping evenly over the gratins.

Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.


Goose Creek Farms Mizuna
2 champagne mangos, peeled, pitted and sliced
1 avocado, sliced
green peas


Juice from 1 honey tangerine
1 Tbs. sesame oil
1/4c low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1Tbs. black sesame seeds

My own personal mixologist shook up one of my favorites:

Buffalo Trace bourbon
Peychaud’s bitters
Dried cherries rehydrated with bourbon

Well, he actually shook up TWO of those for me!

Lobster by Day

The recipe said “Lazy Man’s Lobster For Two,” but that “two” would have to refer to two rather large and very hungry New Englanders as far as I can tell.  Accordingly, “two” for us meant two meals, and our leftovers  transformed into a delicious brunch!

Babies’ first ever poached eggs (a team effort in progress)…

Lazy Man’s Lobster For Two (By Day)

(from the bottom up)
Whole wheat bread, toasted
Cahill Irish Whiskey Cheese
Leftover Lazy Man’s Lobster (see recipe above)
Poached eggs (from local/free-range eggs)
Smoked black pepper

Leftovers are just new opportunities I say, so Happy Leftovers!

ps:  That’s some leftover Post Patty’s Brunch French Toast on the other side of the plate.  It was quite the morning in the dining room!

One For You & One For Me (Cabin Weekend, Part II)

March 2012

There’s a certain quiet that is felt.  This type of quiet is not defined by a lack of sound.  This type of sensory quiet is defined by a calm… a slower pace… a lack of “shoulds” and “woulds.”  This type of quiet accentuates small details… the endless appeal of a flowing creek, the rapid changes of the sky, the flickers of light cast on an array of textures and minutes marked by light and not by schedules.  I’ve only felt this type of quiet a few times, but they have been magical, memorable times, and this cabin weekend was one of them!

Like a long, quiet scene in a film, I watched myself float through the weekend with my special one.  We swayed back and forth on that swing, with its perfectly framed view.  We watched the flickers of light, felt the warmth of the sun and sipped slowly on drinks that added their own textures and patterns to the moments, as we quietly escaped reality.

One for Him

1 part gin
1 part sweet vermouth
1 part bitters

One for Me!

AITA Snap + Organic Birch Beer + Organic Orange Slices

For Us!

A French wine connoisseur once told me tasting wine is not about elitism or fancy terms.  Wine tasting is about remembering your grandmother’s kitchen or recalling a meadow in spring.  It’s about memory and experience.

Smoky ash on goat cheese and fingertips.

The creamy taste and smell of asparagus?!?

A bite that made me think of eating the real deal at a port, while watching sailboats prepped for a major journey.

These were the characteristics of cheese tasting on a sunny afternoon, and future hints of asparagus in a creamy cheese will recall a weekend quietly slinking by a window view.