We planted three cherry tomato plants earlier in the season and being novices, we had no idea what that would yield.
We also had no idea that our compost in our abandoned raised beds would spawn six or seven cherry tomato plants.
Surprise, us! We now have what could be quantified as a shit-ton (a technical term, I hear) of these little delights.
Today I took five seconds to pop a few cups of them in the broiler. Five minutes later -- a tasty something to toss into pasta or, as I am doing now, topping a taco in place of salsa. One of my fave things to do with broiled tomatoes - blend with cold butter. Easy, delicious and did I mention it's easy and delicious?
There's been a lull here at Hungry Times Two (staring at computer all day for work, or job-search), but a recent community garden visit inspired this post. I always joke that I hate yard work/landscaping and love gardening because you can't eat mown grass and tomatoes are worth the effort. In essence, it's the debate between flower/ornamental gardening and fruit/vegetable gardening. There's definitely one crop that achieves a beautiful, edible balance between these two camps: okra!
We're growing a red okra (delicious when grilled) and this lovely flower's currently on one of four okra bushes (below).
The okra shot was taken with a chain link fence in the foreground, which keeps out riff-raff (rabbits, squirrels, etc.) and is also supporting our prolific burpless cucumber plant (below).
We've had a bumper crop of cukes and yellow squash, which we've discovered grows FAST in just a day or so! Erin made sure to document "Attack of the Giant Squash!" (below)
Last month we trekked with some friends to the Asheville area for some much needed R&R.
"R&R" = cheese, y'all.
We rented a cute cottage in Swannanoa via Airbnb and planned a fun Saturday out on the Western North Carolina Cheese Trail. Our trip planner extraordinaire friend J nailed down a few to try out -- we didn't want to overdo the cheese (I know, hard to believe, but that could get ugly) and we also wanted to save a little time to check out downtown Asheville.
Our first stop: Hickory Nut Gap Farm in Fairview. Currently in expansion/renovation mode, the farm is the perfect spot to say hello to some horses, gape at the goats, and peruse a wide variety of area products in their store. I bought some local honey for our pet sitter, some Lusty Monk mustard, the farm's salami, and a brisket.
Next we took a short drive over to Looking Glass Creamery, also in Fairview. It's a small adorable cottage with an adjacent meadow of goats. Here we are with one lovely creature Vivian, who wanted a piece of our friend B. She gave him a bit of a love bite on the neck during this photo op.
Looking Glass spoiled us that day. A charming woman at the counter shared hefty samples of all of their cheeses, including a special Valentine's-themed soft cheese with a raspberry jam center. YUM. From the goat chevre to raw milk varieties, everyone had a favorite. We wound up purchasing hunks of the Pack Square (brie), and a few others I can't recall, like a lovely Monterey jack-style, along with a big loaf of bread and a bottle of wine.
Coupled with the salami and the mustard from our previous stop, we had the makings of a lovely picnic. We set up on the shop's front stoop with a small table and chairs, and relished it all in the sunshine. With a ridge line in the background, goats softly bleating nearby, and near perfect weather, it was exactly what we needed that weekend. I'm already anticipating a return trip. I think this guy is too.
There are 10 cheesemakers on the trail but after that visit, we thought it best to save the rest for another day. Our friends hadn't really explored downtown Asheville so Scott and I guided them from the Grove Park Inn for Bloody Marys on their "porch" (probably a much grander name for a pretty grand view), a stop at the Green Man Tap Room for more beverages, and a game of darts at our old stomping grounds Barley's. Dinner at Chestnut (I had the vegetarian farro risotto with cheese) capped off a wonderful day.
Though it's been 10 years since I moved from Asheville, it still feels a lot like home to me. There's such a relaxing "come as you are" vibe in those mountains and people are so welcoming. Downtown has changed quite a bit since then -- more restaurants; bigger and fancier hotels, and condos cropping up. They also completely reworked Pack Square, the streets on the east side of downtown, and added a Visitors Center. It looks a lot different than when I would haul my laptop from the Citizen-Times to the beautiful Art Deco "wedding cake" building of City Hall to log property records for the paper.
I love the memories that crop up during our visits back to western North Carolina, and of course making new ones with new friends.
Burning off the cheese on a real trail in Montreat
Where Does General Tso Chicken Actually Come From? From TED Radio Hour -- Takeaways: It's pronounced "Tsow" (rhymes with "Ow"). Fortune cookies don't exist in China. All the food we Americans think we know as Chinese really isn't. (It's still sweet and spicy goodness, though.)
We volunteered last week with these orgs, planting radishes and carrots in their plots at their main distribution center. It was great to meet some new people, get our hands dirty, and help out. And they have a garden sign made of metal utensils - I want to make one for our yard.
A carry-out and catering shop on the East side that employs women with records. The service was slow but the chocolate cake rocked, as did the kale soup loaded with veggies and the grilled pimento cheese sandwich. They're trying to attract more business, so CLT peeps get on it.
I'm visiting in a few weeks for work and I'm ready to go! I'll hang at my former station WPLN and though free time is scarce, see friends while we imbibe at Corsair Distillery, enjoy some bocce, karaoke or other shenanigans at Pinewood Social, and dine at Husk (the seond outpost, original is in Charleston.) All of this cropped up after I moved in 2010. The city is even cooler... didn't know that was possible.
Eastern North Carolina
So perhaps I once referred to this neck of the woods as "the armpit of the state," I've since changed my mind after watching A Chef's Life with chef Vivian Howard. The Peabody Award-winning series profiles her Kinston restaurant The Chef & The Farmer, her life working with husband Ben, her cute toddler twins, and how she sources local food for the restaurant. I have reservations with friends at the end of the month --so thrilled! Once strawberries are in season, I'll make her Strawberry Shortcake with Basil Whipped Cream and Coconut Cornbread. And now The Armpit Award goes to Greenville or Fayetteville instead... sorry y'all. The Piedmont and Western North Carolina rule. Speaking of Strawberries Isn't this planter the best? $1.47 at a thrift shop last weekend and now it's in my kitchen, being all gloriously red and berrylicious.
Antico in Atlanta Pizza, Napoli-style. So good. Next door there's a gelato store that also sells roast chicken and pasta. Go. Just go.