Tag Archives: Vintage

Returning Home: The Local

December 2012

Like many a young suburban girl with eyes on city living, my plan was always to leave my hometown. As a little girl, the suburban backdrop was ideal. I had a big yard, where my imagination ran as wild as I did, and I had neighbors who were extensions of my family. I had softball games in big parks, and dinners from my parents’ garden. It was ideal, but as I filled my time with more than games of tag, I saw a city as a better fit for my personality, so I moved.

The Local Train Station

When I would return home for the holidays, the acres of new cul-de-sacs and chain stores would taint my nostalgia. The character of the town was on the decline with each new development, but on this holiday trip home, I found a resurgence of character in thoughtful redevelopment. Very simply, I found The Local!

The Local

Through partnerships with local food purveyors within very specific mile ranges from their kitchen, the restaurant’s commitment to their community is apparent, “Our mission is to show people how good local food can be. Our target customers are those who care about what they eat and are motivated like we are to keep money in the local economy as well as anybody just looking for a good meal….”  [= me!!!]

The Local Mural

What adds even more uniqueness to the menu is the venue! The Local serves the flavors of its community in a symbol of the town- a former train station. One can imagine the hustle and bustle f commuters, maybe even railcars filled with the local produce bound for Philadelphia markets. The antique elements (dark wood grains, radiators, mason jars, etc) come alive with the accents of red and the personality of the mural above the kitchen.

The Orchard Sandwich

The Orchard Sandwich
Fresh local turkey breast, crisp apple slices, hardwood smoked bacon, sharp cheddar and honey Dijon mustard on a *French round roll

The Local buys their breads from Bakers on Broad, another newer place I was hoping to hit on this trip, but I’ll have to visit next time I am home. Unfortunately, all the early bird lunchers ate the place out of sweet potato fries, but the regular ol’ spuds did the trick in their stead. The sandwich was delightful, and there are still so many more menu items I’d like to try!

From the Back Room

Though the window views revealed white, wintry skies, there were a few signs of lingering greens, and I could imagine the summer garden beds brimming with lettuces, herbs and fresh vegetables.

Places for Growing

Though a big part of me wishes such places had been around when I began to forge my own food philosophies, I couldn’t have found this reclamation at a better time in my own development. This holiday I found myself seeking to understand my roots more than ever as a woman, as a daughter, a sister, an aunt and a friend.

Quiet Local Window

I came home to unearth buried memories, forage for deeper conversation and plants seeds for more growth. As the restaurant nurtured its community, I finally reconnected with mine.

First Annual Pepper Farm Festival (Pittsburgh, PA)

October 2012

There once was a Sunday that stretched lazily in the sun like a cat who knows no schedule. It was a Sunday filled with beauty, with the slow meandering path of a tractor in a field, with pillowy clouds changing course, with laughter and clanking glasses. It was the Sunday of an Italian style BBQ, at White Oak Farm, and it was on that Sunday the owners told us about an upcoming Chile Pepper Festival.

The First Annual Chile Pepper Festival was a chance to celebrate bursts of flavor and bursts of fall colors. It was a chance to see the farm filled with vendors and visitors. It was a chance to see the trees filled with colors. The owners of Reyna Foods, Pittsburgh’s premier Latin American grocer, created the event to celebrate the food they love on the farm they love.

Since my introduction to the farm, the barn had been transformed. More of the vintage farm equipment had been restored, and the barn felt more like a museum dedicated to old farming practices than the stumbled upon, nearly forgotten collection it felt like previously. Meanwhile, the outdoor area was a brand new set up of food and craft vendors.

Grilled corn + a slather of melted butter!

A grilled chile pepper (sweet) stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon

Somehow the bacon-pepper came out looking like a sea creature?!?

A Hoboken Gourmet sausage sandwich topped with HOT peppers! The peppers were so hot, we had to buy a Mexican Coke to de-spice our palates.

I’ve mentally planned so many events in that beautiful barn space.

Reyna’s isn’t exaggerating when they call themselves the “premier Latin American grocer.” The store is in constant motion, with fresh corn tortillas riding up and down and around little conveyor belts. Meanwhile, one finds Pittsburgh’s best, made-to-order tacos street side (I highly recommend the chorizo taco). The same taco expert responsible for Reyna’s sidewalk sales was sizzling meats at the festival as well, and this time Edgar the expert and his crew were selling lamb tacos! LAMB MEAT TACOS!

After finishing our tacos, it was time for a wander…

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate autumn and give the season the praise it deserves without complaining about the cold that is to come. Sometimes I just dread winter too much to enjoy the last warm breezes, but this day was the perfect way to appreciate fall in all its glory.

“Autumn…the year’s last, loveliest smile.”
-William Cullen Bryant

Wandering Into A Dream (The Old Lucketts Store & Design House)

September 2012

Driving home from Chantilly, Virginia was a scenic route, and one corner of the scenery caught our eyes in particular. We had seemingly arrived in a small town sustained by antiques. Two houses flanked an intersection, and their scattered wares beckoned to us! In the end, we only had time for The Old Lucketts Store, which is a little like saying, “In the end, we only had time to see the Louvre.”

As fate would have it, we had arrived at the right place at exactly the right time! We didn’t know it then, but we had stumbled upon this antique mecca just in time for The Design House.

The Design House at the Old Lucketts Store is a monthly interior design showcase where everything is for sale. We bring together the best creative minds and the latest finds in a truly inspiring way. At the Design House you will see well-designed spaces that incorporate items that you never would have thought to put together. 

Had we not already filled a large SUV with wedding decor, I’m sure we would have tried to haul furniture, vintage bicycles, letters, tea sets and more, but as we were already quite packed, it was more of a visual feast. Oh what a visual feast it was! Mark your calendars and get yourself to that beautiful design house. You might just find me nestled in one of the bedrooms or whipping up something in their kitchen. I’m fairly convinced I could just pretend to live there until they accepted my adopted accommodations as true. Until then…


Italian BBQ On The Farm, Part I

August 2012

There once was a Sunday that stretched lazily in the sun like a cat who knows no schedule. It was a Sunday filled with beauty, with the slow meandering path of a tractor in a field, with pillowy clouds changing course, with laughter and clanking glasses. It was the Sunday of an Italian style BBQ, at White Oak Farm.

This was no ordinary Italian BBQ! It was the culinary culmination of some of the city’s best Italian chefs, as envisioned and curated by Justin Severino of Cure. I once praised Justin for creating more than a meal, but rather, for creating an entire dining experience, and this was the epitome of a dining experience.

While peeking around the barn, we met one of the owners of the farm, Tony DiCio, who was as eager to give us a tour as we were to see everything. The farm had been in Tony’s family for generations, and he and his brother had long talked about restoring it. Realizing time would continue to pass them by if they continued to talk about their farm plans, the two proactively began getting to work.

They read a lot. They consulted with farming experts. They did some dirty work. Gradually, the farm became what we were seeing on that beautiful Sunday, and it was a lot to see! From the antique farm equipment slated for restoration, to the chickadees, to the horse in its own small barn, to the lake and quiet opening in the trees, the farm had so clearly been born again with a thoughtful passion and a history to share. Soon the farm will be sharing its produce as well. Keep an eye on the local food scene for ingredients from White Oak Farm. Many of them have already been enjoyed at Cure.

(Appropriately for my thematics, the above vintage beauty is a grain separator!)

Walking around that farm made me question my need for urban spaces and busyness. Tony has the advantage of alternating New York and the farm as his home bases. The combination of extremes struck me as ideal! We talked about the importance of slowing down to re-evaluate and recharge, a topic that has been on my mind a lot lately. He described the farm’s revitalizing effect in his own work. Each time he stayed there, he developed a new focus in his return to his busier, business life. Sign me up!

Walking up the stone driveway, into the grassy field, and finally, to this table, provide so many details to behold! I was so excited by the beauty of that table that I nearly failed to eat some of the starters, but I quickly regained my food focus.

I can’t thank Justin Severino (pictured above) enough for inspiring this event, which combined the talents and efforts of so many people. It was a truly memorable meal with a very palpable energy from the chefs and in return, respect from their diners. Rather than dissect the menu, I am structuring this post much like my own experience. I read over the menu initially, but once the food started coming to the table, I just took it in with my senses (and of course with my camera as well). Hence, what follows is a visual delight rather than a course-by-course review! Believe me, each course was impressive and need not be dissected!

The Menu

Salumi & Negronies
[where there is a Justin Severino, there is surely a Negroni]

Heirloom Tomato Salad
w/ Pine Nut Brittle & Balsamic
Wine Pairing

Grigliata di Mare
2010 Bisson Bianchetta Genovese
“U Pastine” Liguria

Pizza A La Griglia
2010 Monteforche
“Lo Sfuso di Collina”
Cabernet Franc Veneto

Pork Belly
Coenoebium “Rusticum”
Lazio Bianco, Central Italy

BBQ Brisket
2000 Calabretta Etna Rosso Sicily

Watermelon & Olive Oil Cake
2004 La Stoppa “Vigne del Volta”
Malvasia Passito Emiglia Romagna

Do you spy little green spears? Those were sea asparagus, and they tasted like little baby asparagus spears! I have to admit, after an all too vividly textured octopus eating experience in Spain, I was hesitant to try those purple tentacles atop the sea asparagus, but I quickly found myself converted! I didn’t feel as though I was eating an octopus (if you ate what I ate in Spain, this statement makes sense), and the combination of flavor and texture worked! Bravo Michele, you sold me on eating octopus!

These two pictures sum up what I appreciated the most about this bbq event. I had anticipated an amazing meal and to be in awe of the setting, but I was pleasantly surprised to feel so inspired by the chefs. What impressed me the most about this experience was the camaraderie, the antics and the overall enjoyment the chefs derived from sharing their craft in a rustic and somewhat challenging fashion.

Thanks to all the chefs involved! I also walked away from this experience with the inspiration to visit the restaurants I had yet to try.

Justin Severino, of Cure
Sam Di Battista, of Vivo
Michele Savoia, of Dish Osteria
Domenic Branduzzi, of Piccolo Forno
Stephen Felder, of Stagioni

And thanks to the fellas of Bar Marco for orchestrating the libations!

By the time the brisket arrived at the table, my camera had called it quits, so I had to pull from the talents of my pal Alex Mohamed to show you just how deliciously this meal ended…

This was by far one of the most memorable meals I have ever experienced. The hours passed without us knowing, and we all left feeling mentally lighter, happier and more relaxed. It was ideal, and I am tremendously grateful I had the chance to share in this event.

One Last Note…

Stay tuned for more Justin Severino/Cure events and be sure to keep updated on the Cure website so you too can join beautiful food festivities such as this. Also, check out Adam Milliron’s photos from the event on the Cure Facebook page. I could look through his photos for hours! You might even spy yours truly in front of the camera for a change.

A Cookie For The Kind of Man I’d Be (Snap ‘Staches)

February 2012

If I were male, it’s pretty safe to say, I’d have obnoxious facial hair, channel the Prohibition era in my fashion choices and fantasize about having a dimly lit den, where my male counterparts would gather, perhaps even smoke some cigars (though I generally find this habit disgusting), drink brandy and discuss the world.  If I were male, I’d channel the quintessential high society, manly man (minus the misogyny) of yesteryear.  In a distilled manner of speaking, I’d be one of those Brooklyn hipster types.  If I were that man, these would be my cookies, and this would be my coffee!

Presenting another collaboration between yours truly on the baking/styling front and the ever talented man behind the camera, Adam Milliron, who has now entered the twittersphere!  Three tweets for Adam!  Tweet tweet hoorah!

Strong Black Coffee + Snap Whipped Cream

Strong black cuppa joe, prepared as you see fit (I generally press my beans in the French style)

1 cup organic heavy cream, chilled
1-2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup, to taste
2-3 Tablespoons AITA Snap, to taste
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium sized, chilled bowl.  Use an electric mixer to beat until peaks form.

Add in heaping dollops to a cup of joe.  Political debates to ensue.

Snappy Gingerbread Mustaches
(Makes about 3 dozen cookies)


1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 cups chestnut flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamum
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly milled organic smoked black pepper
1 1/2 sticks (12 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup unsulphured molasses
1 large egg (local/free-range)
2 Tablespoons AITA Snap


Combine the flours, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter and brown sugar until the mixture is light in texture and color, about 2 minutes.

Beat in the molasses, egg and Snap.

Using a wooden spoon, gradually mix in the flour mixture to make a stiff dough.

Divide the dough into two thick disks and wrap each disk in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled, about 3 hours. (The dough can be prepared up to 2 days ahead.)

Position a rack in middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

To roll out the cookies, work with one disk at a time, keeping the other disk refrigerated.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature until just warm enough to roll out without cracking, about 10 minutes. (If the dough has been chilled for longer than 3 hours, it may need a few more minutes.)

Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and sprinkle the top of the dough with flour. Roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick.

For softer cookies, roll out slightly thicker. Using cookie cutters, cut out the cookies and transfer to a baking stone lined with parchment, placing the cookies 1 inch apart.

Gently knead the scraps together and form into another disk. Wrap and chill for 5 minutes before rolling out again to cut out more cookies.

Bake until the edges of the cookies are set and crisp, 10 to 12 minutes.

Cool on the sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire cake racks to cool completely.

The cookies can be prepared up to 1 week ahead, stored in airtight containers at room temperature.

The Method To Our Madness & Make Believe

Want to see how obsessive Adam and I are about arriving at the perfect shot?  Here’s a glimpse into our madness.  It may seem petty to some, but finding that perfect spot for a sugar cube really makes our day!  Hopefully, it makes your day in some way as well!


World Nutella Day Commemorative Brunch

February 5, 2012

Someday I’ll have a calendar marked with all the quirky, commemorative food “holidays” (does that calendar already exist somewhere?).  Last year, I discovered I had just missed World Nutella Day, but I did what any modern girl on a mission might do:  I marked my Google calendar and let technology take care of the rest for me!  Last year, I also discovered what I had always thought was the result of a flash of French brilliance was actually an Italian invention.

Fast forward to 2012, and my calendar reminded me I had a celebration in store!  When Italy is due kudos, it’s my time to queue Nina, the best gift Italy ever gave me (albeit it via America, but she does have the passaporto)!

I am not one to argue against the flavor combination of chocolate and hazelnut, but I do have a few objections to some other items on the Nutella ingredient list.  Thus, I made my own version…my own “rustic” version (my food processor is a bit on the tired side) and then put it in between layers of panettone bread for a really rich flavor and an additional nod to Italy.

Look what happens when we pretend!!!
(click on the image ↓ below ↓ to see us in action!)

We channeled the best of Italy- the curvaceous women of Fellini films, donned our sunglasses for a spell and proceeded to pretend we were sitting at an Italian cafe.

Little trays with a view certainly help the Sunday morning game of pretend…

Brunch beverages…

One Village Coffee (with a dollop of homemade whipped cream, perhaps?) and a cinnamon swizzle stick for a touch of fancy and spice!

Blood Orange Bellini and a toast… to our inner Sophias!

World Nutella Day Baked French Toast

I had some egg nog approaching its final days.  Being the daughter of invention, I used that egg nog for a really decadent milk source in the custard sauce.  Waste not, eat creatively!  Feel free to use regular milk instead.

World Nutella Day Recipe:  Baked French Toast


Organic, unsalted butter
1 loaf Panetonne bread in 1-inch slices,
1 cup homemade nutella
pure maple syrup
Goat cheese (Soignon), sliced
Mixture of cinnamon, raw sugar and cocoa
3 cups organic egg nog
2 eggs (local/free-range)
2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons Frangelico
1 Tablespoon AITA Root
2 Tablespoons organic brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt


Generously grease a 9×9-inch baking dish with butter.

Arrange bread in a tightly-packed layer in the pan.

Smooth a layer of homemade nutella over the bread, followed by maple syrup and the slices of goat cheese.

Use the remaining slices of bread to complete the top layer. Sprinkle with a mixture of cinnamon, raw sugar and cocoa.

Whisk egg nog, eggs, vanilla extract, Frangelico, Root, brown sugar and salt. Pour over the bread. You probably will have extra liquid, but make sure the mixture seeps into the top layer of bread.

Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.

Bake at 425 degrees F for 30 minutes, or until puffed and golden.

Cut into squares and serve with maple syrup and homemade whipped cream.

Homemade Whipped Topping


1 cup organic heavy cream, chilled
1-2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
1-2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1-2 Tablespoons Kraken Rum


Step One:  Release the Kraken!

Step Two:  Combine all of the ingredients in a chilled bowl.

Step Three:  Use an electric mixer to beat until stiff peaks form.  Keep chilled until ready to serve.

Step Four:  Heap onto French toast and maybe even add a dollop into your cup of coffee!

Felice festa di Nutella!

[Mi dispiace io non parlo italiano.]


Birthday Eve: The Cure for What Ails

January 20, 2012

Not only am I the youngest of five, but I was my parents’ late life, “miracle” baby.  What does that mean?  It means I do not shy away from birthday attention.  Despite what someone says, I see no problem with claiming most of January as mine (I generously leave NYE to the world).  Without stress about my fabulously young age, the only thing ailing me was an overdue visit to one of the newest and most promising restaurants on the Pittsburgh food scene.  Fortunately, that desire coincided with my birthday month, so dinner was no longer just dinner.  It was my Birthday Eve dinner!

I had heard the buzz.  I had been tantalized by insider peeks from my photographer extraordinaire who was working on the restaurant’s website.  I had heard the first impressions from trusted foodies.  I had admired the values and the design, and at last… at long last, I arrived for my turn…!

5336 Butler St, (Lawrenceville) Pittsburgh, PA 15201

“Cure is a neighborhood restaurant with a small menu focused on local urban Mediterranean food. [Chef/Owner] Justin [Severino]‘s vision of cure is for it to be a reflection of the seasons in Western Pennsylvania and its local farms.”

Oh Cure, I liked you even before I had arrived, but when I saw those wooden walls, you had me, you really had me!

Then I saw the tin ceiling tiles and the globe lighting feature, and I knew that we were forging something really special!

The reclaimed wood asserts its character and emanates its warm hues here and there.  This nook of the booth is part of the partition between the lower level seating and the open kitchen on slightly elevated, second level.  My curiosity has been piqued, and next time, I’d very much like to sit and watch the kitchen action.

I may have been smitten by all the wood grains, but I hadn’t yet fallen completely head over heels.  Don’t you think that hanging chalkboard menu would be even more dramatic hanging from old, rusty hooks, especially old butcher’s hooks or maybe something like this?  I would light it with exposed bulbs dangling from ropes.  I also would have chosen a bolder color for the painted wall.  A deep burgundy or a burnt sienna or a maybe even a plum.  This tangent speaks to my mounting obsession with restaurant design.  Let it be said, I will pick paint swatches in exchange for high quality, local food!

In addition to the chalkboard menu, there’s a printed menu for each diner.  I am definitely in the chalkboard menu/focal point camp, but the torn edges of the table version speak to the details in everything Cure is doing.  Sometimes chalkboards show a glare or you end up reading an entire menu to your dining companion.  This just makes sense!

Sitting in the dining room entails a wee, wee little game of I Spy.  There are little pigs in various hiding places.  One pig in particular recalled a happy memory for me.  However, once the food arrives, the pig kitsch will quickly fade into the background.

Let’s Eat…!

lardo, mortadella, prosciutto, ciccioli, chicken rillettes, pate campagnola, pickled beef tongue, cornichon, mustard, red onion

When the name of the restaurant is “Cure,” when a little pig peeks greets you at the entrance, and when the logo practically oinks, of course you order the Salumi platter.  Of course!  And you don’t regret it!  This assortment taught me two things about myself (appropriate since birthdays should be reflective times):

1.  I like pickled beef tongue.
2.  Chicken rillettes can really hold their own if properly made, and despite my typical preferences for other meats , I will like them accordingly.  Cure makes chicken rillettes properly!

Sunchoke Soup
Venison chorizo, kale, goat cheese, crispy shallots

This is more than soup.  It’s soup with a ceremony!  The bowls arrived with the kale, shallots and chorizo.  I thought perhaps I had misunderstood the term “soup” until the server arrived with a deep blue creuset to pour the creamy base over the salty and spicy contents in our bowls.

This night marked the second time in my life I have knowingly consumed Venison.  The first occasion was also a birthday month celebration, but in the form of a chilli, that inaugural consumption hardly counted.

ps:  I ate this as per the strict instructions Nicole gave me to try it on her behalf.

Beef Cheeks
Apple cider, potato gnocchi, maitake mushrooms, celery root puree

Jono was gung-ho about ordering the more daring cut on the menu, but I was truly hesitant.  I kid you not- when I saw beef cheeks on the menu, I chewed on my cheek a little and tried really hard to imagine what that cheek would look like on a plate (I shouldn’t tell people that tidbit).  Knowing full well my little cheek was not going to give me the answers I was seeking, I asked the waitress for help.

Would beef cheeks fall on the fattier side like pork belly, the thin, often tough liver side or the roast side of the spectrum?  She described the slow cooked beef cheeks like a brisket or a roast, and I finally felt the courage Jono had from the get go.  On my last day as a twenty-seven-year-old, I ate beef cheeks, and I dare say, it was a very good decision!

Citrus Chamomile Curd
Crepes, hazelnut Italian meringue, saba

When our friendly waitress told us about the desserts for the night, she mentioned the pear option.  Then she described the crepes.  As she did so, she was far, far away from us, in a dream land where she sat at a table with a fancy crepe platter just for her.  It was a beautiful endorsement, so the choice was obvious.  I do love a tart burst of citrus curd, but I must say, I can’t wait to go to Cure on an apple pie night!

I can’t say that the crepe closed my eyes and sent me to a dreamland, but don’t you think that crepe was winking at me?!?  It was giving me that smiling wink because that dessert knew none of the Curers weren’t going to sing or make fools of themselves, but they were all wishing me Happy Birthday nonetheless.

That was just perfect!

28 Years Ago…

January 21, 2012

Today I am feeling extra special and thankful for all the really good people in my life as they send me the best of wishes.

But I’m feeling especially blessed because this woman brought me into the world twenty-eight years ago!

Even if she weren’t my mom, I’d say she was one of the most generous, selfless women I have ever met.  Her patience is admirable, and her listening ear has helped me more than she may even know.

Thanks to both my parents for letting me be me… even if the result has been crazy (that’s what people tell me, anyway).  To the entire Kogel clan, lots of love on this day!  You have all made me feel special.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have food and snow adventures in store for this day.  I have only good feelings about my 28th year!

Mixed Signals?

September 2011

Remember that Saturday when I took a solo stroll?  Steeples and clouds and colors caught my eye.  There was a dress and little birds.  There was a bright beam of yellow in the window, and it wasn’t the first time that canary color caught my eye.  For a couple of weeks, I had passed the store on a near daily basis, always after hours.  At one point, I peered from all angles, trying to glimpse the price tag.  On that solo Saturday stroll, I peered through the lens of my camera and continued to pine.

Then there was a surprise!  Someone, who I didn’t even think was reading, told me he had a present for me.  First I opened a bag with a bowl and thought, “oh, useful, but why?”  Then a color caught the corner of my eye as he revealed the other half of the present.  Then both my eyes filled with tears, and I just couldn’t stop sobbing.  It was a perfect and sincere surprise, and simultaneously the saddest and happiest surprise I’ve experienced to date.  If I said anymore about the gift giver, I’d dip more onto the sad side, so let’s focus on the happiness of having ol’ yeller instead!

How smart the designers were back in the day!  The lovely lady inverts for more convenient storage… or for showing off not two but THREE mixer blades.

I now have a collection!  Where did the baby mixer come from?  Well, when two mixers love each other very, very much… their owner buys a baby one here.

Time For A Spin…

The bright yellow butter was even more beautiful once spun into a rosette!

With the yellow beauty at home, those simultaneous emotions of happiness and sadness gave me a little pang when I passed the antique shop window, where a clown now tries to find his way to someone’s home.

To the gift giver, I do indeed say thank you.  This mixer means the world to me.

PS:  Thanks Nina for the titular pun.

Post FleaTique PiqueNique

September 2011

The vendors shuffled, wrapped and packed, closing booth by booth.  The FleaTique was drawing to a close.  Time for the PiqueNique!  It was a perfect afternoon.  Thank you ladies for sharing the sunny Sunday with me!

(Click here for the recipes)


September 2011

I mentioned how I had a plan brewing and a pique-nique all packed in a basket.  Thankfully, the blue skies and sunshine complied, and the three of us ventured to Tarentum, PA to meander amongst the aisle and aisles of antiques and flea market goods.  Here it is in all its former coal mine glory….


Lil’ lovin’ oven lust, but alas, at that price, this little guy was not meant to join my collection.

Do you think a love of antiques brought these two lovebirds together once upon a time?  I’d like to think so.

Nina sang a country song, and the vendor’s favorite part was when she sang “fuckin’ love song.”

Just past the moon potties…

… was a dream!

My new gig?

Not until I convince my friend Eric Beauregard to come hotwire the ice cream truck for me.  I told him his homemade sundaes would be on the house, and by “house,” I mean “wheels!”

Excitement escalated as it came closer to Pique-Nique time…

Stay tuned for the Pique-Nique!

A Solo Sort of Saturday

September 2011

Some mornings are just meant to be the solo sort.  It seems more of these me, myself and I mornings are in store for me now.

Sometimes the sky is so blue and sunny, and the crispness in the air demands an ambling morn before winter winds knock on windowpanes.

Sometimes paper birds carry off the dress I want to wear.

Sometimes vintage mixers are mine for the having.  Sometimes they are not [yet?].

Sometimes (most times) I wish I were in that airplane.

Sometimes I find Sustenance from other bakers whose values I trust.  Sometimes those bakers really capture the changing seasons in a sweet [potato] biteful.

Sometimes the words on paper fit just right.  (Sometimes you can read better if you click on images)

Sometimes solo Saturdays take a turn toward unwanted words, but at least, at the end of the day, after those unwanted words are said, the sun sometimes looks like this, and there’s a friend on the stoop for support.

Then there was Sunday, and it was a beautiful, beeeeeautiful Sunday!

Quelcadelphia In The Times of Irene

August 2011

This is the perfect window, in a splendidly tall row home, with wooden floors, a behemoth butcher block and kitchen tiles with blue flowers.  This perfect window makes me want to sit on its sill, drink tea whose vapors hit my face with the breeze, read and daydream, daydream and read.  Fortunately for me, this is the perfect window in the home inhabited by several outstanding fellas (and an adorable ladyfriend as well!).  These fellas are my friends, some new, some old, but I dare say, we are not fair-weather friends (being as we sort of survived a hurricane together…well, hurricane hype, that is).  Thanks for everything Philly Fellas!  I am still plotting how to be the seventh roommate!

Without further ado, I present… Quelcadelphia in the Times of Irene!

The Spring Gardens

Just beyond enviable row homes, people-watching stoops and a stone church, emerged this beautiful garden!  Glancing across the street yielded quite the urban view.  Yet another reason to love the Fairmount neighborhood!  There were iron tables and chairs where I could have very easily passed a sunny afternoon (had there been sun, and had I had access past the garden gate gazing).

Cafe L’Aube
1631 Wallace St.
Philadelphia, PA 19130
Neighborhood:  Fairmount

In Brian’s biking, he spotted a “Quelcy type of place,” so I went walking past impressive door details, antique accents, flora and perhaps even fauna, in search of the art nouveau facade of Cafe L’Aube.  I had the place to myself, which gave me a chance to practice French with the French-African owner, concentrate on the various French magazines and most importantly, to savor my buckwheat crepe with ham, goat cheese, fig jam and a sprinkling of herbs!  The interior had a very crisp, calming aesthetic, offering quiet respite from a rainy afternoon.  Some sunny day, I’ll have to sit at those outdoor tables.  I love a good corner locale for people watching.

2202 Fairmount Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19130
Neighborhood:  Fairmount

I was going to ask one of the fellas where I could find tattered pages and that particular smell of many, many old books crammed, in every which way, onto old shelves.  As the wandering would have it, I stumbled upon this place on my own.  The store provided me with my stoop read for the weekend:  Siddhartha.

The Fairmount Farmers Market
22nd & Fairmount Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19130

I was even more pleasantly surprised when I wandered right into a farmer’s market.  Look at that palette of carrot colors!  I bought mango donut peaches and blackberries and quickly concluded, I would love to have more mango donut peaches in my life!  The taste is not that of biting into a mango, but the hint of the namesake is there.

Honey’s Sit ‘n Eat
800 N 4th St
Philadelphia, PA 19123
Neighborhood: Northern Liberties

Unfortunately for my sister’s vacation, Hurricane Irene caused an evacuation of Ocean City. Fortunately for me, it meant I was able to spend the afternoon with my sister and her family as they followed the evacuation trail through the city.  A friend recommended Honey’s Sit ‘n Eat, and upon eating, I quickly sent a thank-you text for the tip!  Oddly enough, Honey’s fusion is somehow your Jewish grandmother meets your sassy Southern BBQ slinger (ie:  “Bubby’s bbq brisket” and fried pickles made their way to our table spread) and they somehow unite for good?!?

The corner restaurant boasts quite an herb adn vegetable garden on its trellised wall and an assortment of locally sourced menu options.  I enjoyed feeling as though I had walked into the cafe from Fried Green Tomatoes, and I really enjoyed my Croque Madame (locally sourced ham & cheese on Challah French toast, topped with a sunny side egg, with maple syrup in the sandwich layers)!  On a side note, It is becoming evident and will become evident if you continue to scroll through this post, that I have a weakness for Challah based brunch items.  I admit it, but at least sharing tends to add a slight variety to my brunching and lunching.

After seeing this article in the NY Times, I bookmarked this website, so when my sister asked if there was anything else I could think to do while we were all together, I already had a response:  Old Timey Ice cream and Sodas!

The Franklin Fountain
116 Market St.
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Neighborhood:  Old City

We knew we had arrived at the correct spot when we saw the line from the door of the turn-of-the-century corner building, the wood and iron tables under the trees and the vintage soda pop uniforms darting to and fro.  The line, though long, may not have been long enough because the multiple menu options and combinations made forming a decision quite difficult.

Upon reading the history behind The Franklin Fountain, the impressive collection of antiques and attention to historical detail made a lot more sense.  The founding brothers come from a line of antique collectors, and the eclectic decor brimming from every nook and cranny really enhances the feeling of stepping into the front door and stepping back in time.

Aesthetically speaking, I have nothing but compliments!  Tastefully speaking, I have high praise.  Service wise… unfortunate.  Mind you, I am not the type of aunt to blindly think my nieces and nephews are floating on angel wings.  When I tell you my nephew was being curious and not troublesome, I mean it.  He merely stepped on an antique scale, which for all intents and purposes, looked as though it were “open” for customer use in that kitschy type of way a boardwalk shop might offer.  There was even a little sign that said something about “your weight,” which might lead one to conclude he or she could discern his or her weight by stepping on that very scale.  The moodier of the soda jerks rather abruptly told my brother-in-law, “please [the type of "please" that was formality only] don’t let him stand on that scale.  It’s over 100 years old [said with all the condescension he could muster under a white, paper hat, which was surprisingly a lot].”

Listen soda guy, I hear ya.  I know the woes of working behind a counter, but it’s an ice cream shop!  You have to expect kids to be there, no?!?  I say all this not to steep bitterness but more as a warning.  If you are bringing kids, be prepared for a possible stink eye or two.  That being said, my soda server (not the kid hater) had one of the most genuine smiles and really seemed to take pleasure in serving his customers.  Hit or miss, I suppose.

Ordering leaned on the overwhelming side.  First, we were stuck behind girls who were just loitering around the menu counter (not reading the menus mind you, just obstructing our process).  Next thing you know, we were being scolded for occupying too much counter space, but that’s where the menus were.  Then there was the pressure of choosing from the extensive menu and taking advantage of both the soda and ice cream worlds (not a huge complaint obviously).

The obvious choice probably would have been one of the many ice cream floats, but as someone reared on an intense appreciation for ice cream, I have issues with liquifying it.  I want to savor my flavor of choice in its solid (and melting) form.  Thus, I divided and conquered:  a mint chip ice cream cone and a Japanese Thirst Killer Phosphate (Orgeat {almond}, Grape juice, & Angostura Bitters with Phosphate).

Once upon a time, I only ate mint chip ice cream if it looked like Saint Patrick’s Day had been muddled into the cream.  Those tables have definitely turned, but mint chip is still ice cream perfection in my world…when it is white, that is.  The Franklin version and homemade waffle cone did not disappoint.  I shared my bright red phosphate with the family, and I beamed inside when my niece described the flavor as, “it’s like a collage of apple cider and [communion].”  What a little poet!  A collage!  With words like that describing food, I should probably plan to relinquish this blog to her any day now.

The Farmer’s Cabinet
1113 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Neighborhood: Market East

Ah my friends, they have come to know my food preferences and tastes (and I’ll be honest, “selectiveness” ha) very well.  Thus, my dear friend Heather told me about a new restaurant she thought should be on my Philly radar:  The Farmer’s Cabinet.  I was enticed immediately by the name, which stems from an old handbook devoted to agricultural information for local farmers.  The name lends itself to a decor of warm wood grains, large railroad ties or rafters (?) strung from the ceiling holding flickering candles, wooden shelves of old bottles and a menu featuring locally sourced ingredients, small batch beer and handcrafted cocktails.  Of course this place was on my Philly to do list, and accordingly, I had very little restraint when ordering.

Our friendly and helpful waiter (extra kudos because we were pushing the kitchen closing hour), assisted in our butcher block/cheese board selection.  I like brie cheese as much as the next, but in my francophile world, I see it more as a staple and less of a night-on-the-town cheese.  Let me tell you, the Moses Sleeper Brie from The Farmer’s Cabinet changed my mind!  It really rocked me from my brie stupor with its complex flavor and texture.  Try it!  Try it!  Try it!  The rest of the appetizing slate offered Birchrun Blue Cheese, smoked duck, cardamom pickled carrots in a jam jar and the quiet contentment that arises when friends are silenced by good food!

From that deliciousness, we progressed to a sharing of the seared pork tenderloin (bacon bourbon cream, mustard greens, cranberry greens) and the ground short-rib burger (aged cheddar and bacon jam).  Allow me to reiterate two very important points:  bacon bourbon cream and bacon jam!!!!!!  The words say it all, and once we had the food on the table, we were speechless!  Just one more time…bacon jam!!!  Bacons and bourbons aside, the burger passed the test of the stand alone meet quality, whereas the pork tenderloin was only as good as the contributing flavors in each forkful.  I wouldn’t go as far as to say I was disappointed, but I wasn’t overwhelmed.

We easily worked our way through a few rounds of cocktails as well.  First of all, there is something unique about saying, “I will have a Sacrificial Dance (Rye, strawberry & rhubarb rattafia, St. Germain elderflower liqueur and fresh lemon juice),” or “I’d like Ancestral Spirits (Bourbon, cointreau, lemon juice, blueberry preserves, dashes of ginger tincture and a mint garnish).”  I wouldn’t be hard pressed to believe in some mystical power emanating from the cocktails, especially the Ancestral Spirits!  Maybe that was just the “magical” effect of quality alcohol cleverly concocted.

From the moment we sat at our table, we eyed the dessert menu and made a note to save room for some sweeter samplings.  Amongst the table, we shared the Whoopie Pies, Phyllo ice cream sandwich and the Bavarian Pretzul Redux.  I’ve had my share of fancier whoopie pies (that’s “gobs” to you, Pittsburgh), but this whoopie pie wiped all previous pies from memory.  Each flavor asserted itself, and we were all “politely” eying the last bite of dessert, poised to savor the last lavender bits.

When I picture pretzels in dessert, my default image is a suburban jello salad with a pretzel crust, but this farmer’s version was such a far cry from cul-de-sac potlucks (as one would expect).  The pretzel redux was beautifully plated and so richly chocolaty, I forgot part of its salt versus sweet complexity came from the snack classic.  The banana ice cream sandwich was the middle ground in my book, which was a very, very delicious dessert book.

Great friends!  Great food!  Great ambiance!  How did we ever leave that table?

Well, the real answer is we left with an alcohol and food induced merriment and loud pop hits on the stereo!


Sabrina’s Cafe
1804 Callowhill Street
Philadelphia, PA 19130
Neighborhood:  Fairmount/(Art Museum)

I usually seek out new dining options, but memories of brunch at Sabrina’s lingered in my head and hungry stomach.  The cravings coupled with proximity to Phil’s new Fairmount location and the impending Irene rains all pointed to Sabrina’s Cafe.

I have a theory about the plate planners at Sabrina’s.  I envision a brainstorm board in their kitchen, with magnets featuring various meals offered on typical menus (ie:  omelettes or steak with crème fraiche).  When deciding the daily specials, the head chef, in a wild, frenzied movement, rearranges various meal cards into groups, and these overwhelming compilations become the specials.  This is to say, Sabrina’s menu boasts very extensive descriptions.

Par Example: 

The Breakfast Club Special
Cornbread & green onion foccacia topped with scrambled eggs with a BBQ basil-cilantro pesto, cheddar cheese, fresh spinach, topped with grilled honey balsamic, flank steak, a corn, tomato, red bean and pepper succotash and roasted jalapeno-avocado crema….just try to say that in one breath!

Duckies “Friend Zone” French Toast
(Not quite a verbal mouthful but definitely a mouthful of towering French toast!)
Filled with a sweet blend of cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, blueberry, sweet almond and oat clusters and vanilla shortbread, topped with a peach-honey syrup.  Yummmmmy!

Bonus:  Love the Leftovers!
If only I carried an army figurine with me because I really should have included some type of scale figure with these French Toast photos.  Point being, this plate leads to leftovers, and when I wanted dessert later in my visit, I paired a slice of this French Toast with French vanilla ice cream and my own cherry compote, and it was deeeelicious!


Cafe Lift
428 North 13th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19123
Neighborhood:  Spring Garden, Callowhill, Avenue of the Arts North

Sundays are not days for big decisions or early action.  This was especially true on the post Hurricane Hype Sunday.  Each of the Fairmount brownstone residents slowly emerged from slumber to enter the brunch brainstorm slowly occurring in the breezy living room, where bubbles were blowing out the perfect window.  There were attempts to find a new place, but when the gents told me one of their brunch staples, Cafe Lift, used to house an industrial elevator, hence the name, I was enticed.  When I saw the menu, I had my shoes on and umbrella ready.  Then I fell down the slick stairs, but that’s a different story.

The dear friend Heather mentioned above was able to join our brunching endeavor as well.  I loved her company and her willingness to split two entrees, thus striking the perfect brunch balance of sweet, savory and even a tad experimental:

French Toast
Challah dredged in a cinnamon vanilla custard then finished with fresh fruit and homemade whipped topping. [I really appreciate the use of the term "dredge" here]


Hudson Rose’s Savory Pancake
Savory buttermilk pancakes cooked with chopped bacon, sauteed spinach, scrambled eggs and fontina cheese layered between and served with pure maple syrup.

Bacon in the pancake!  I’d been toying with sausage in the pancake, but bacon?!?  Daaang!  You may be skeptical about the maple syrup dousing all of the listed components, but trust me (and possibly ignore my grand affinity for maple syrup ever so slightly), the combinations were harmonious!  The gents had the idea of a post-brunch nap for their afternoon, but in the interest of quality time with Heather, I energized enough to do some Anthropologie lusting, so let’s just pretend this fur is part of my permanent collection.

As the daylight faded into bay window silhouettes, I found myself on the stoop drinking hot tea, the vapors hitting my face with the breeze, reading and daydreaming, daydreaming and reading.

Thanks again, Philly and friends and family.  It was a wonderful adventure in the time of Irene.

When Baking Leftovers Combine, I am…

June 2011

I am the daughter of invention.

When I first changed my eating habits, I was excessively and naively vigilant.  I wouldn’t touch anything other than 100%, whole grains.  I tried to avoid fat (foolish, young Quelcy, fat is for all), my sugar intake was low, and I barely ate meat.  If that approach to eating sounds miserable, know that it was.  Eventually, I came to see food quite, quite differently for reasons that should ring clear throughout With The Grains.

However, in that epoch, my sister was extremely frustrated by my laundry list of “won’t eats.”  She told me to find a dessert recipe I would eat for the conclusion of our Thanksgiving meal.  Dessert is a very important course in our household, and she didn’t like taking no for an answer.

(Tosha probably washing dessert off my little baby body)

Though it seems like ancient history, this was the time pre-internet-inundation of recipes and food blogs offering solutions for every type of pickiness and dietary woe.  Still, I found a “healthy” pumpkin pie recipe with a whole grain crust and probably without butter (no longer my enemy, in fact, my old friend).

The big dessert moment arrived.  My sister presented the beautiful pumpkin pie with the healthy coloration of whole grains.  I appreciated her efforts to accommodate me and anxiously took my first forkful.  It took every ounce of reserve to chew and swallow that bite.  It was awful.  It was a spice pie with a pinch of pumpkin.  How could a pie be that awful?

My mother took a bite to help answer that question.   It was the nutmeg, the overpowering nutmeg, rendering the pie inedible.  My sister brought the recipe for my mom’s experienced review.  There was a costly typo, and what should have been a minor teaspoon or so of nutmeg was some outrageous, exaggerated quantity (instilling in me a healthy paranoia about posting recipes to the world wide web.  Dear Readers, I hope never to lead you astray resulting in a costly, spicy consequence).

I stared at my slice of pie really wanting to eat it for my sister’s sake, but there was no amount of mind-over-matter that I could muster for the sake of her efforts.  Nor did I want an entire pie to go to waste.  I looked at my mom, at my mother, the master of changing recipes according to the cupboards’ supply levels and asked, “Is there any hope for this tragic incident?”

There was so much more than hope!  There was an unrepeatable and overwhelming success!  In a typical, unassuming and humble manner, my mother mashed up that spice pie, muted its flavor and incorporated it into a pumpkin bread recipe.  I kid you not, it was the best pumpkin bread I have ever eaten, and it was a one-time occurrence, but it was a one-time occurrence I will never forget.

Not only did this incident exemplify my mother’s flexible (and delicious) baking style, but it instilled in the future baker, in me, a flare for the experimental.  I wasn’t scared of baking, and I definitely didn’t view that branch of the food world as one laden with rules, as most people do.

Thus, I owe my mother many thanks!  I owe my mother maaaaaaaaaaanny thanks actually, but for the sake of this story, I would specifically like to thank my mother for imparting in me a joy of baking that extends beyond rules and boundaries and converts mistakes into the best bread I have ever eaten.

Thank you, mom!

When Two Leftovers Combine, I am… a Planeteer?

It happens:  extra batters, extra icing, extra whipped toppings, etc.  It’s just a part of the baking game, or at least, my baking game.  What to do with them?  I channel my mother’s lessons and create something brand new.

When your leftovers combine, I am…

… mildly still obsessed with one of my favorite childhood cartoons (click on the image to see the theme song!!).  Have you noticed how heavy handed the Cold War theme is?  That element was completely over my head as a child.

I digress.

When Two Leftovers Combine

I had leftover icing from this birthday cake and leftover batter from this barter cake.

I also had some chocolate chips and pecans in the baking cupboard.

So I chopped the pecans…

and spread them across a buttered, 9×13 glass pan and followed with a chocolate chip layer.

Then I mixed the beet whipped cream and the chocolate batter and poured the vibrant result across the chocolate chips and pecans.

I baked the new creation and then gussied up a slice.

Then came the best part…I dug in!

The Ice Cream Parlor

June 2010

I had been keeping an eye open for an ice cream maker in all my flea market wanderings, and finally, I spotted this old timey gem!  I was more than a tad skeptical an $8 ice cream maker would in fact make ice cream, but the vendor gave me his word and told me I could return the following week if it didn’t churn out satisfactory desserts.

There’s no need to justify having an ice cream source in your life, but specifically, the QT Pi(e) Project was in need of some mode.  When I spotted this marvelous, vintage machine, the pies and ice cream were one step closer to happily ever after.

So we took the little lady for a whirl and put a ReadyMade ice cream recipe to the test as well.

Our ice cream supply needed to be just as local as our pies, so we used pure maple syrup, from just west of our border, as our sweetener.

No need to return the new ice cream queen!

The Recipe
Adapted from ReadyMade Magazine

For Creme Fraiche:
2 c heavy cream
2 T buttermilk

For Creme Fraiche Ice Cream:
1 1/4 c nonfat milk
2 1/2 c cream
1/2 t salt
1 cup pure maple syrup
7 egg yolks
1 c crème fraîche

Creme Fraiche:
Place heavy cream in a bowl or large jar. Add the buttermilk, which will act as the culture. Partially cover the jar or bowl and let it sit at room temperature until mixture has thickened to approximately the consistency of yogurt.  Stir it gently a couple of times over the course of the process so you can keep tabs on how it’s doing. You’ll notice that it thickens in clumps at first, and then more broadly. Depending on the temperature of my house, it takes between 12 and 48 hours to thicken properly. When it’s ready, give it another good (but gentle) stir, cover, and refrigerate for at least a day before using.

Creme Fraiche Ice Cream:
Mix the milk and cream in a saucepan and heat until nice and hot before adding the egg yolk extravaganza.

Whisk milk and cream in a heavy-bottom saucepan with the salt and half the sugar maple syrup. Whisk egg yolks in another bowl with remaining sugar maple syrup.

Turn the heat to medium-low and bring cream mixture up to just before a simmer, whisking frequently. Ladle a quarter cup of the cream mixture into the egg yolks and beat thoroughly, then pour the egg mixture into the cream mixture. Switch to a spatula and run it along the bottom of the pan constantly until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Set a metal bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice water. Strain the cream mixture through a fine sieve or a colander lined with cheesecloth into the smaller bowl and stir. When cooled, whisk in the crème fraîche. Transfer to a covered container and refrigerate for 2 hours. Freeze per your ice cream maker’s instructions.

They Just Don’t Make ‘em Like They Used To

March 2010

Preparations for a very special baking project had led me, along with my dashing carpenter-chauffeur, to the St. Vincent Gristmill in Latrobe, PA.  The dashing carpenter is like a GPS when it comes to finding antique shops and flea markets, and thus, from Latrobe, we found ourselves in the sleepy, little town of Jeannette, PA.  For such a small place, Jeannette had a lot of antiques to offer on its main drag.

I left Jeannette with a new table for rolling out doughs, a vintage mixer that not only looked great but worked like a charm and a recipe book from 1882!  I love how the recipes are often just lists of ingredients.  Whoever filled that book with her inky cursive scrawl, surely knew her way around an oven and didn’t need to fill extra pages with the step-by-step instructions.

Click on the gallery photos to see more of my Jeannette adventure and vintage kitchen additions.