Food explorations - the charleston edition

How many oysters can/should you consume in 72 hours? That’s a very good question and one that I tried to answer while in Charleston this past week. But since I really didn’t test myself completely, I can report that I probably consumed just a dozen or so. Because there were so many other good things to eat as well.

My hubby and I have this thing when we dine out. It’s a (sort of) contest to determine who chooses the most delicious entree for each meal. A few years back, he ALWAYS won. Until I caught on to what he was doing…consistently choosing the special of the day. When you opt for the chef’s special, you get the best the restaurant has to offer on that night. Well, I can say that these days (in all modesty) I am beating him at his own game and especially kicking his butt when there are no available specials on the menu. Because I know what I like and what I like is usually pretty darn good!

While we were in Charleston, we ate like kings. Or maybe we ate like an inmate enjoying his last meal? Our first night we went to 167 Raw, where they do not accept reservations and the little restaurant seats maybe 22 people. We arrived early and snagged the last 2 spots at the bar, split a dozen oysters on the half-shell, had the most amazing halibut ceviche (with housemade tortilla chips) and shared a to-die-for lobster roll. OMG. What a way to start the trip! A couple of glasses of wine and all we could manage was to stumble back to our hotel and hit the hay.

The following day arrived rainy, cold and pretty miserable. Hard to sight-see when the weather is gloomy & gray. But we did manage to eat….lunch at Leon’s Oyster Shop where surprisingly, we consumed not one oyster. We shared a basket of jalapeno-hush puppies with honey butter. Wow. And then I enjoyed a kale salad featuring tender strips of butternut squash  followed by their Fried Chicken--two pieces of crispy, spicy, herby white meat heaven, which definitely trumped his Fried Chicken Sandwich. We waddled out of Leon’s and walked back to our hotel, mist or no mist. Ruth 1, JB 0.

After some aerobic shopping (gotta work off that lunch!) and a little rest, we headed to dinner at Hall’s Chophouse. This decision was my mistake. Visit a steakhouse outside of Texas? What’s the point when we have so many amazing options here in Dallas. However, after this evening we stand at Ruth 2, JB 0.

The sun finally made an appearance on Friday and we were able to walk down to Battery Park to see all of the gorgeous, historic homes. We worked up an appetite on our five mile loop of the city and so we were excited for our 2pm lunch at Husk, the much acclaimed southern gem on Queen Street. The flights of Hard Cider certainly enhanced our Pimento Cheese Toast but my Low-Country Shrimp & Grits were a disappointment. JB won this round by selecting Fried Chicken that he claimed tastes a lot like my homemade version. For dessert we just had to sample the deconstructed Apple Pie (it's called research, people!) Ruth 2, JB 1

For our final night in the city, we made a very late reservation at The Ordinary. Fortunately for us, we arrived extra early and requested an earlier slot if at all possible and the kind manager found us the perfect seats at their oyster bar. You know how I am about seat location! I think these were the best in the house...quiet comparatively speaking, private, near the kitchen but out of main traffic way. This restaurant spoke "shared plates" to us where you start on the raw side of the menu and work to the cooked. So we split a half-dozen of the plumpest, briniest oysters then moved to a Spicy Triggerfish Dip with housemade Sea Salt Potato Chips. Our most unusual and yet mind-blowing shared plate was the Steak Tartare topped with Fried Oysters and fresh Horseradish. Allow that description to sink in for a minute. It was SO unusual and SO delicious that we scraped that plate clean. For our hot dishes, JB chose the Fried Oyster Sliders and my selection was their Saturday night special - Stuffed Baked Lobster. While my choice was outstanding, the sliders were so unique that I'm afraid he won the round. Oh, and he also chose the most heavenly vegetable--Roasted Evangeline Sweet Potatoes with Sorghum Butter so he earns an extra half point. Ruth 2, JB 2.5 (Final)

We had one more half day to enjoy the flavors that Charleston had to offer so when the Farmers Market at Marion Square turned up nothing we were craving, we walked to Callie's Hot Little Biscuit and stood in line to taste some lovely, tender, melty orbs of flour, buttermilk and butter. Yummmmmmm.

Interesting side note about the City of Charleston:  EVERYONE talks food there. Sales clerks in clothing stores ask where you're eating that evening. The Uber drivers make suggestions for you to try and one of them even claimed there are 2000+ non-chain restaurants in the area. Eating Out is considered the activity that entices travelers from New York, Chicago, San Francisco--some of the biggest food-centric areas in the country--to choose Charleston as a destination. And I'm going to have to give it two thumbs up as well, because I cannot wait to go back! 

 

Ooh la la, so French Room

Everyone is talking about the new look for the French Room, the Adolphus hotel's formal restaurant. But I'm not going to talk about the refreshed architecture and how they took the interior design back to the early days when it opened in 1912. I want to give you our 411 on the actual experience of dining in the restaurant.

The occasion we were celebrating was our anniversary and we chose the French Room because it was newly reopened and we wanted a special venue. Our table location could not have been more ideal; coincidentally, we'd been seated there previously on another visit but after the revamp, we were delighted to sit on a pretty sofa in a private little nook facing the windows and most of the restaurant. On the table at our arrival were champagne flutes which were filled almost immediately and with which the restaurant congratulated us on our anniversary. A very nice touch and a lovely way to start the evening.

Our server was an energetic girl, full of knowledge and expertise--who needs the sommelier? We chose the seven course tasting menu because several of the items really appealed and if you have sampled tasting menus anywhere, you might think as I did that the price was actually on the reasonable side. We did not partake of the wine pairings because let's all agree, THAT'S A LOT OF WINE! So we ordered as our server suggested: a white to accompany the first three courses (an absolutely delicious Aligote) and a red for the following three (Pinot Noir) with coffee to finish our dessert.

The courses were very frenchy. What I mean is, exquisite presentation of proteins not on your everyday diet plan. The stand-outs were the Seared Foie Gras and the Duck Bigarade, the latter surprising me with how much I enjoyed the flavors and textures. Oh, and the seventh course was a winner too...Caramel Pot de Creme which I had just a taste of because I preferred the cheese course-always my choice!! Another perfect thing about our table, the lighting was excellent and therefore I snapped pics of all our courses...see below!

What I will remember most vividly about the evening: the service was impeccable. When I choose high-end for a special meal, I want to feel that the staff really cares about my experience in their establishment. The French Room did not miss on that count. Not only were we treated like royalty while at the table, upon our departure we were presented with a "sealed" copy of the menu as well as cards on which our server had written the names of the wines we'd enjoyed. Taking the extra step to make a final lasting impression. 

Oh, and the company was as always, the highlight for the entire night. I highly recommend The French Room and I highly recommend taking someone you love with you! 

 

On State Street, that great street

Aren't weddings magical events?

I've heard many people say they always cry at weddings. I think I'm becoming one of them. Last weekend we were in Chicago to witness our nephew, Max, marry the loveliest girl. Kate hails from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and she could not be sweeter. (Always, always, always marry your best friend when possible!) The ceremony and reception were held at the Kimpton Hotel Palomar on State Street, a fortuitous decision to have everything in one location as October 14 turned out to be the single wettest day on record for the month in the city of Chicago (8 inches!). But no matter, we laughed and partied and danced the night away, cozily dry in the 5th floor ballroom.

Three of my children were present for the occasion and I have to say, seeing them interact with their cousins is special. What makes the cousin relationship so unique? I really can't put my finger on it...even as a child, I remember being so excited to spend time with my Beach cousins. Although truth be told, some of them were quite awful to me! (Nickname: Chinky) Perhaps we are drawn to our cousins because we sense the familial bond as an extension of parental sibling attachment. Whatever it is, my kids are now adults and they have the best time with their Butterfield cousins.

Our food experiences in Chicago were limited by the schedule but I have a couple meals to share with you.

  • I had an immensely satisfying lunch salad at Volare--warm kale, toasted chickpeas, crispy prosciutto, roasted cauliflower and white beans in a citrus vinaigrette. Such an accommodating staff as well.
  • My brother-in-law, Robert, catered the tasty welcome reception on Friday evening, and if you are ever in the Chicago area, you should look up his restaurant in Downers Grove, RBK American Grill. I have been trying to convince him to open a catering outpost here in Dallas!
  • A completely inspired wedding reception idea? Serve sliders later in the evening when your guests have hit the open bar too many times, and burned their dinner off on the dance floor! What a nice touch. 
  • Our final evening in the city, we enjoyed a wonderful Italian dinner at Piccolo Sogno. The service was attentive and the pastas perfection.

It was a wet & wonderful wedding weekend and I hope you'll join me in wishing all the joy in life to the newlyweds, Max & Kate Flessner!

An evening in the Mediterranean

A sweet lady recommended Sachet on Oak Lawn to me and I did not wait to try it...she has great taste, after all. As it happens, we were trying to decide where to have dinner on a Thursday night and upon her comment, I called and made a reservation, excited to try something new.

Their only available times were 6:15 and 8:00, and as Thursday is not usually a late night for us, we opted for the earlier slot. We arrived at 6:10 and sat at the bar, because we like to check out all the aspects of a restaurant--including figuring out if sitting at the bar for dinner would be a good option in the future. Many times, JB and I enjoy having dinner at the bar...it's a luxury we couldn't indulge in B.E.N. (Before Empty Nesting) The bartender also clued us in that they are happy to let you sample any of their wines and there are so many and from all over!

The bar staff was casual but very friendly. We sipped our Sachet Manhattans and though we declined, the barman offered bread to nibble on while we enjoyed our drinks. A nice touch, I thought. Another nice touch: complimentary sparkling water at the bar and your table. 

The hostess led us to our table at 6:20 and she was also very friendly. She gushed about our table location and indeed, we loved where we were seated: near the kitchen but cushioned from most of the noise of the restaurant, we could have a lovely intimate conversation. We would definitely request that table again.

Our server was cute, happy and friendly. She said "everything is good" which is not super helpful when you are a first time diner, but i'll put that down to the newness of the restaurant. The menu is quite large so we had hoped for a little direction. But we muddled our way through...

The first section, titled Meze, lists no less than 19 options at 3 for $14 and 5 for $21. Most were vegetables, some nuts and olives, with the intent to be shared by the table. We opted for 1) French Lentils served on a spicy pepper dip, 2) Farro, mushrooms, and cauliflower in a lemon sauce and 3) Grilled Carrots and pepitas in an herb sauce. Honestly, this was not my favorite part of the meal. The Lentils were the most flavorful and all the items although "room temperature" were kinda cold. I would definitely order from the Meze again but choose totally different items until we found the tastes we favored.

From the Salad section, we selected the chopped salad ($11) which was perfect, with salumi, olives, sweet piquillo peppers, cucumber and manchego cheese. On the Appetizers list, I chose the Charred Octopus ($13) and it was AMAZING! Might have been my favorite thing all night. Octopus can be chewy when over-cooked and this single, lovely tentacle was seared to perfection.

The Pasta section offered nine menu items that our server promised were small enough to perform as appetizers as well. We selected Ricotta Gnocchi ($12) with prosciutto and Short Rib Ravioli ($13) with mushrooms and crispy kale. I could have eaten either of those dishes all. night. long. Absolutely fabulous. Wait, I just said the octopus was my favorite but I think it was a three-way tie!

After all that, we finally arrived at the main course and chose just one to share. The Grilled Branzino ($26) was two perfect little filets served on a bed of Swiss Chard and accented with Marcona almonds and a lovely lemon vinaigrette. The dish was delicious and a great choice to split after the other courses.

Wait--one more. For dessert we chose Almond cake with huckleberries and Lemon Ice Cream. Yum. Yum. and Yum. 

Other thoughts:

  • The decor is gorgeous and the place settings are adorable with the flatware encased in a little burlap pouch.
  • The lighting is just right, soft but not dark with a lot of natural light from large windows on two sides. 
  • I have used the word "friendly" three times to describe the staff.
  • The atmosphere in the restaurant is energetic and the groups we saw dining at tables for 6 or more made me think of friends that are happy to be together.
  • So much attention has been paid to the details and it really shows.

I know this has been a long review, but thanks for staying to the end...Sachet is a win. You should definitely make a reservation sooner rather than later. But forget about me telling you our table number, because I don't want any competition for that perfect little spot!

 

Is what you eat important to you?

I have friends who think every restaurant is good.

I'm serious. I have never heard them proclaim, "that place is awful." They like them all. On the flip side, I also know people who are sooooo hard to please. They nit-pick every aspect about dining out, even at fast-casual and self-serve establishments. I'm probably somewhere in the middle.

I really care about quality, flavors, portions, and presentation. I want my food to TASTE GOOD. The dining experience is a whole different ball of wax and can influence my impressions of a restaurant, but really the question is, does the food please my palate and satisfy my hunger?

Our bodies require the intake of meals to sustain life. Simply put, God made us that way. Regardless of taste and seasoning, the food we take in will keep our bodies running. But I believe that another truth is that because we don't have a trade-in option on the original chassis, we should take the best care we can of the bodies we currently inhabit. So when and where we can, we should choose healthy options created with real ingredients and as little processing as possible. And maybe make it a point every day to consume some raw fruits, nuts and vegetables that God placed on the earth to sustain us.

(But...I'm not gonna lie. I eat chips & salsa. And halloween candy. It's okay to eat bad stuff sometimes. A little splurge can ensure sanity, am I right?)
 

Thursday Night Pasta

It was 4pm and I hadn't planned dinner...
My DH had asked for pasta this week and somehow the days got away from me and it was Thursday and I had yet to plate up his request. He called me when I was finishing up at the shop and made a suggestion. "How about if I grill salmon and you make some kind of light pasta to go with? Forget about the red sauce--just use what we have on hand." Being exhausted and given a free pass to avoid a stop at the grocery store, I jumped at his menu plan with both tired feet!

When I arrived home, I immediately raided the refrigerator for any and all available ingredients. This was the resulting dish and it was perfect with his smoky-lemon-butter salmon. 

Everything But The Fridge Pasta

Note: I am obsessed with this goat cheese, now available at my Costco! I eat it straight from the package and also with baguette toasts. 

All of this to say that I am grateful for my JB, who knows my heart...that my intentions are good but I don't always have the energy to pull my plans together without his assistance. 

Thursday night dinner: smoky-lemon salmon filet + everything but the fridge pasta

Thursday night dinner: smoky-lemon salmon filet + everything but the fridge pasta

Life of Pie

What was the first thing you ever baked in your parents’ kitchen? I think 9 out of 10 people would respond “cookies.” Me too! I remember that our neighbors across the street  (Joyce Strong and her mother, Mary) had shared these funny little brown, bumpy lumps with us and I thought they were divine! When I asked Joyce about them, she said they were “Cat-tails.” The joke was that we had cats and the Strong family did not care for pets of the feline persuasion.

The cookies were actually an unbaked oatmeal confection that many of you have probably tasted or made at some point. It was the perfect first foray into the baking world for me because the cookies required no oven time! My mother’s cookies were a different story. Unlike those Peanut Butter Chocolate No-Bake cookies, each of Sadako’s cookies were perfectly round spheres…crisp and chewy and mostly eaten right off the wax paper where they cooled on the counter.

My mother, Sadako, born and raised in Taiwan, was a novice to American baking but she applied the strict attention to detail learned in her mother’s kitchen to her newly acquired skills. Due to her quest for perfection, she struggled especially with pie crust. And of course, apple pie was my favorite dessert in the world. I could not wait until she baked pie—sneaking into the kitchen late at night for a last piece before bed, waking up in the morning and eating a slice for breakfast. I even loved the little cinnamon strips she would make with the leftover pieces of pie crust. But she constantly complained of the troubles associated with rolling out crust so we did not have pie as often as young Ruth would have liked. :(

Fast forward to my first kitchen away from home and by golly, I was going to learn to make pie. Ironically, I don’t remember the first fruit pie I baked. But I do remember the first time I made a chicken pot pie for my sweetheart, JB. I recall that I used too many herbs in the gravy and one in particular, tarragon, was not his favorite. So several tweaks later, the Home Sweet Home chicken pie as it is today, became my signature dish. I took it to pot-lucks, friends who’d had babies recently or lost a loved one, and family reunions.

Eventually, we all return to our first (food) love and I am no different. I’m baking Apple Pie this week and every one of my senses will be aroused to memories of my mother’s flaky pies which she claimed were less than perfect but I found to be pure heaven.

Grandma Alice's Apple Pie

Grandma Alice's Apple Pie

Croutons 101

Why are we here today, ladies & gentleman? Because we love Bread in all of it’s delicious, crusty, chewy glory. But many of us are avoiding this marvel of yeast and wheat due to food allergies or fear of increased weight. For those that truly have an intolerance or even a life-threatening relationship with gluten, perhaps you should not read on. (Please consider transferring to another class, as Croutons 101 is not a good course for you.)

To my remaining students, I must confess that I too, have avoided pizza, crackers, hamburger buns, waffles, sandwiches, pretzels, and all other distant relatives to my very first addiction, Bread. I have blamed my slowed metabolism and increased pounds on bread, because I am not addicted to sweets. (I love a good piece of chocolate like every other red-blooded american girl but I don’t crave dessert.)

But in this course, we are going to learn to throw down our pre-conceived notions on the evils of bread. Instead, we will embrace the method by which I have learned to enjoy my favorite food in the world one nugget at a time.

Nunzio’s Croutons

 

croutons.jpg

At this point, you may use the finished product to add crunch to any green salad or to float on top of a cup of soup. But feel free to do as I do and save some in a plastic bag to enjoy as a mid-afternoon snack when I am craving the bread that I denied myself at the restaurant we went to for lunch because I wanted to be good and not eat a sandwich. Deep breath. Repeat after me. Bread is not my enemy!

There are several other crouton recipes that I employ throughout the year. I make a bruschetta-type crisp for caesar salad, a buttery version for BLT salad and a cheese & cornbread beauty for tomato soup. The possibilities are endless. Croutons are also a good use of that beautiful whole-grain loaf that you purchased at the Farmers Market but forgot to eat and now the outside of the bread is kinda hard. (Or, throw chunks of it in the food processor and pulse until you have homemade breadcrumbs. Store in the freezer until you need them!)

In all seriousness, there is nothing like a great piece of warm bread, spread with salted butter or dipped in extra-virgin olive oil. So even though I will pop a few croutons to satisfy a craving in a week when I am cutting down on carbs, I also will ask for another basket of bread at Lucia because it is so soul-satisfying. <3

The IKEA Milestone

There are many different phases in the development of children from baby (completely dependent) to adult (hopefully independent). And as they near closer to that jumping off point into self-reliance, I think the benchmarks sometimes transition to becoming our own milestones.

Case in point, this past month my husband and I loaded up a rental truck and headed to Ft. Worth to transfer our college junior into a rental home that he is sharing with 5 other TCU students. I remember making this same trip six years ago with our daughter as she moved into a house two blocks from campus with 3 other girls. (Incidentally, all 4 housemates of “Casa Wabasha” are now MARRIED! How did that happen? Where did the time go?) And then, as in this summer, we moved a bed and several lovely boxes purchased from that mega-store, IKEA.

Sidebar: What is it with millennials and IKEA? I recently viewed a pre-showing of Reese Witherspoon’s new movie “Home Again” and one young man, in an attempt at seduction, offered to construct something from IKEA. Lol.

Back to the subject at hand…three boxes, three hours and three people to put together a six-drawer dresser for my son’s room! I am not exaggerating. When we finished, my son was thrilled. His room was complete and represents a safe, solitary haven to escape to from the stresses of upper level courses, internship applications and an ex-girlfriend. So I  consider the building of IKEA furniture a milestone in our continued advancement of moving him along the path to adulthood. Cross another one off the list. Had to do it. It’s done. Move on. No tears associated with this objective.

But two weeks later, when he texted me a picture of his first home-cooked meal made in the rental house kitchen, I felt a little more sentimental. He had requested I send him a few simple staple recipes and I recently came across an idea whereby you save these go-to recipes as contacts on your phone. Perfect for young people whose lives are on their smart phones; if they are at the grocery store, they have only to search for the recipe name in their contact list and they have the ingredients list in front of them! So he made spaghetti for himself. My baby made his first meal away from home AND it was not only edible, but delicious! I’m so proud. And a little sad…that he is one step closer to not needing me anymore. :(

james' first self-prepared meal as a college student

james' first self-prepared meal as a college student

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:

-William Shakespeare

Summer, the most magical of seasons, is drawing to a close. Many of you were as busy during June and July as you are the rest of year..but I hope you had some respite from the crazy, frenetic Spring.

My favorite summer activities include going to movies to escape the oppressive heat, shopping the local farmers markets for amazing produce, picnics & concerts at the Dallas Arboretum and lazy afternoons by the pool. I also love eating dinner as late as we want to, outdoor exercise and the sun rising with me in the morning.

The images of summer that I adore are drippy ice cream cones, children in pajamas and puppies running around the farmers markets, colorful pedicures in chic summer sandals and emerald green waters with white sandy shores.

Soon the hot days will shorten to cooler evenings and we’ll be back on our patios sipping wine. The lights from Friday night football games will fill the neighborhood. The cross country runners will be on the streets early in the morning. After school activities will have us running, dividing and conquering. It’s all good, all part of the natural progression of things. One season closes, another begins. The goal is to enjoy each and every moment.

IMG_0053
IMG_0053

Seven days

Recently, we returned from a vacation to the Florida gulf coast with three out of four off-spring and two respective spouses. We were so fortunate to have time with family for our week because it doesn’t always work out that way. Now that most of our adult children are married, they must divide time between us and their in-laws so a week together here and there is a real treat.
So, in brief, here’s a look at our week by the numbers…

1 round of golf, 1 stand-up paddle board, 1 date night

2 days of rain at the end of our week, 2 sheet-pan breakfasts*, 2 martini nights

3 girls on the beach, 3 books finished by yours truly, 3 family meals at the vacation home

4 boys in the water, 4 absolutely-drop-dead-gorgeous days on the beach, 4 delicious dinners in restaurants

5 walks on the beach, 5 days without rain, 5 ways to eat oysters

6 games played, 6 different swimsuits, 6 water bottles consumed each day

7 sunrises & sunsets, 7 days of laughter, 7 cruiser bikes

Countless: inside jokes, photos snapped, snacks consumed, waves ridden, eye rolls, quotable comments by JB, songs shuffled, cocktails created, memories made.

Can’t wait to do it again.

*Recipe for Sheet Tray Pancakes for your next family vacation/reunion!

Ahhhhh, the Salad days

No, I’m not making a reference to my youth, a time of innocence, as the term “salad days”  usually refers to, but I mean THE Salad Days. As in, my consumption of salad Every Single Day for the past two months! Beginning with the Whole30 in June, I have managed to consume some form of fresh green concoction each day to the point that I don’t want to break the streak. Not that it’s become a religious experience for me, heavens, no. However, I actually look forward to my daily salad with some anticipation now.


My sweet M-I-L, Jeanette, was the first to introduce me to the idea that salad belonged on every dinner table, even at home. Sure, you go out to eat at a nice restaurant and you’re offered a salad before your main course but very few families consistently consume  greens with their meals at home. So my family grew up with the expectation that salad graced the table every night in addition to our main meal and possibly alongside other vegetables and bread. It was often a simple mix of red lettuce, carrot slices, diced cucumbers and Good Seasons dressing. Side topic: the joke in our house is that the making of the nightly salad is the first chore assigned to a novice in the kitchen. When someone enters Ruth’s kitchen and asks if they can help, invariably the answer is “you can make the salad.” This is because I am a bit of a control freak and don’t want you in my way as I’m trying to finish getting dinner on the table and truly, how can you mess up the salad? :)

Anyway, I digress. Salads. Lots of them. I’ve had some fabulous ones lately, from salmon & avocado atop arugula tossed in a sun-dried tomato vinaigrette to a romaine, apricot, walnut, avocado, olive number drizzled with a garlic-tahini dressing. A phenomena has started to occur when we go out for lunch or dinner…I think I’m craving a particular kind of cuisine like Italian pasta & pizza or Southern fried chicken and waffles but when I arrive at the restaurant I can’t get my eyes to wander off the Salad section.

I once scoffed at persons who chose salads thinking they were the “diet” choice on the menu when in truth the dressings and croutons made them anything but light. But now I embrace fat as an important part of my daily consumption and realize that the yummy flavors in a good dressing cause me to consume more healthy greens! Win-win.

In short, these are MY salad days. Two salads are on the menu this week. Join me.

 

I want to be STRONG like Wonder Woman!

Yes, I confess: I went to see this feature film about the Amazon woman/goddess turned superhero. Much to my surprise, I enjoyed the film as did my son and husband, whom liked it even beyond the fact that a gorgeous woman was in EVERY scene.
Wonder_Woman_(2017_film)

Besides possessing Greek Goddess strength and power, the heroine has an admirable moral compass that points to doing the right thing, no matter the time constraints or obligations pulling in opposite directions. My favorite scene involves her journey to the frontline of World War I in which she chooses to save a small town that has been forsaken by the Allies as un-winnable. She charges through the enemy line followed by soldiers and brings victory to the “good” guys because she refuses to ignore the plight of the innocent.

That’s what I want to be. Not a superhero. Not even a simple everyday hero. I just want to be courageous with the strength of my convictions to stand up for those who can’t fight for themselves. Or speak up when I see an injustice done. I want to make a difference. It could involve making a phone call to a state representative about ending Daylight Savings Time, like another Wonder Woman I know. Maybe I just want to stand up to the bully who is trying to intimidate me at the gym and force me off a machine. (another story entirely, ha!) July is Grow my Strength month.

However, Wonder Woman is but one role model. I speak to courageous women every day…many of my customers are strong beyond measure with firm convictions. You may not battle Aries, God of War, on a daily basis but you fight the wars of Dallas, Texas. You go girl!

Thankful for my Faithful Father

It’s Father’s Day weekend and time to honor and celebrate the men in our lives. Mothers get so much more acclaim than their male counterparts and moms definitely deserve to be honored. There is nothing like the nurture you receive from your mom to shape your personality and future.

But I want to speak to the blessing that my dad, Tom Beach, has been in my life. When I think of my father, so many diverse images come to mind. Scholar. Pilot. Jesus-freak. Teacher. Sports fan. Marathoner. Evangelist. Brother. Husband. Son. He has been all those things to so many people.

My father in his post-Jesus freak phase

My father in his post-Jesus freak phase

He ran track for Kansas State for one year.  Became a missionary in Taiwan after graduating from college. Learned to speak perfect Taiwanese. Received a Masters in Divinity. Earned his private pilot’s license. High school teacher at Taipei American School. Founded a ministry-“The Way Inn” to provide a meeting place for young people to worship in Taiwan. Youth pastor at Christian Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Avid motorcyclist. Ran multiple marathons. He can name every tree in the forest and identify the clouds in the sky.

But besides all of the talents and accomplishments, my father is the most faith-filled man I have ever known. He believes that every person is “savable.” He is compassionate and discerning and loving and affectionate. He married a girl who could speak no english but he saw in her the beauty of Christ. And he has loved each of his children fully and unconditionally. I am so proud to call him my dad and am so thankful for the way he raised me.

So on this Sunday, I just want to express my gratitude for him. I love you, Dad. Happy Father’s Day! <3

Loving on Daddy, 1969. Tonia is left, Ruth is right

Loving on Daddy, 1969. Tonia is left, Ruth is right

In Pursuit of Patience

For the month of June, I’m finally getting around to calling out my problem with impatience. As evidenced by the pained look that appears on my face when I’m standing in the express line behind a woman writing a check. Even worse than the fact that I am utterly impatient is the fact that you can read it on my face. So I’m going to try to take calming breaths and assume a look of peace and tranquility.

But beyond my impatience with every day tasks, driving conditions and snail mail, I really need to learn to wait on life. On God to answer prayers. On solutions to dilemmas that will only be solved with time. I must acquire peace through stillness and inactivity. And. This. Is. So. Hard.

Sometimes we think we can make things happen quicker. That if we line up all the chickens, we will be flush in eggs. That if I pray the same prayer every morning, I must get the answer I am desiring. Unfortunately, we are NOT always in control and God may have a different plan. In June, I will try to let go of my expectations about timeframe, and even more difficult to do, let go of my demands for the outcome. I know I will find peace in this act of faith.

This doesn’t mean I will discontinue my prayers and hopes. As long as I’m not impatient and demanding and can remain peaceful. And that’s where I hope to be.

I hope that many of you are around this week to enjoy our fabulous menu. We will be cooking all of June and will be sporadic for most of July, then close completely for two weeks at the end of July and first part of August.

White Wine Romance

Summer has arrived in all of it’s hot, steamy glory. Everything changes for this season. If you have school-aged children, they will transition to camps, activities, summer jobs, or just sleeping in late. Schedules relax a bit with meals at odd times. The patterns of what we eat may change also; some of you may grill every other meal, never turn on the oven, or eat mainly cold food straight from the refrigerator. And beverages! Summer means lemonade, iced tea, frosty beer, sangria, mojitos, and frozen margaritas.
If you’re like me, on a summer evening after work or play, there’s nothing like a beautiful chilled glass of crisp white wine.

{The chilled glass is essential—JB fills mine with ice and adds water to get the melt going. When the glass is chilled just right, he often offers the water to me to drink before dumping the ice to replace it with wine. Gotta hydrate, am I right?}

I have enjoyed many a robust red in my time. Cabernet Sauvignon with my steaks, and Pinot Noir with my Thanksgiving turkey. I like Chianti with my Italian meals and a nice Malbec with brisket. But I always considered white wine as a warm weather beverage that must only accompany chicken, seafood, and meatless dishes.

However, as of late I find that white wine doesn’t give me a headache or make me sleepy. I can consume several glasses without getting tipsy and let’s all agree, it can be sooooooooo refreshing. So I must confess that I have transitioned to a year-round white wine drinker. Sometimes I go against all conventional thought and enjoy a Sauvignon Blanc with WHATEVER I’m eating!

Turns out I’m not the only woman trending this direction in wine consumption. I recently read a Wall Street Journal article titled “Why More Women Are Siding with White Wine“ and found I am not alone in choosing the lighter version of the grape’s bounty. Many females cite health issues as their reason but a lot of women just prefer the refreshment quality of the whites. Click here to read the article and see the author’s picks for 5 good bottles to feed a white-wine addiction.

And armed with this justification (hey! it’s the Journal!) I will continue down my white wine path into these hot summer days and beyond! :)

My Box Club Love Affair (Have you been to my Costco yet?)

That’s right. My Costco finally opened on Thursday, May 11, to great fanfare at Churchill Way & Coit, the first Costco warehouse within Dallas city limits.

I refer to the store as mine because I have been longing for a location here ever since we left suburbia in 2013. Because. I. Love. Costco. I love the wine selection, the gourmet cheeses, the organic meat, fruits, vegetables and olive oil. Their bakery is good, return policy rocks and the customer service is always pleasant and friendly. Seriously…what’s not to love?

The ONE thing that I do not care for about Costco are the sample carts. Many people love, love, love the samples as evidenced by the crowds that form around the space, but those clusters of free-food-seekers drive me crazy when I’m trying to shop! I’ve also never eaten in the little cafe at the front of the store for which the big box chain is famously known for their $1.50 beef hot dog & drink combo. Do you know that price has been in effect since the warehouse first began their cafe offerings in 1985? They’ve never once raised the price.

And that’s another reason I adore Costco. It’s one of the few retail establishments where I don’t feel like the goal is to gouge it’s customers on prices. In fact, their average product mark-up is 11% compared to 24% at Wal-mart!

But enough of my gushing over my favorite big box store…head on over, tell them Ruth sent you and pick up a $4.99 rotisserie chicken on an evening when you don’t have a Butterfield Gourmet dinner for your table!**

P.s. We had a great day out at St. Michael’s on Saturday and loved seeing some of you while we sold out of our inventory. I forgot to share the link to the awesome write-up in the Dallas Morning News last week, so hope you’ll read it and catch the nice mention they gave the market and Butterfield Gourmet! **all comments and opinions are my own and Butterfield Gourmet received no compensation for this essay. I just really love Costco!

My Dallas Costco, 8055 Churchill Way

My Dallas Costco, 8055 Churchill Way

Blowing kisses in May

By golly, I’m going to get my act together. If my resolution in May doesn’t shape me up, it’ll kill me for sure. So, first my confession: I’m a bit of an aggressive driver. Impatient to a fault. Lead-foot. Not a tail-gater, but have been known to talk to the driver in front of me, gesturing with uplifted hands, smacking my head, hoping they are looking in their rear view mirror to register my annoyance, disgust or anger.

Well, this month my goal is to gesture in a completely different way when I’m cut off or delayed by the very cautious motorist in front of me. For May, I will try to blow a kiss to the subject of my irritation and utter this saying “I hope you arrive safely and on time to your destination.” I will attempt to murmur this blessing every time I feel the need to scream silently or when I feel my blood boil in righteous indignation.

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This may be my most difficult change to date. Please send help.

But seriously, if I can accomplish this goal, how much better will the roads be?! If we could all send out blessings instead of curses, the energy around us would completely change to a positive force of synchronized oneness from which all love would abound…yeah, right. Sorry, that’s just silly talk. Life is well, life. It’s messy and dirty and can be negative and ugly. For now, I’ll just be happy to change the 6’x6’ atmosphere inside my ride to a place of peace. Most of my commutes to the kitchen or the big box store are short and SURELY, I can blow kisses and whisper blessings for the 15 minutes I’m in the car each way.  I hope. I’ll try. Pray for me. :)

At the end of this week, we honor our mothers, whether honorary, adoptive, by birth, or by action. I am so blessed by my mom, Sadako, who brought me into the world and continues to be a Godly inspiration of sacrifice and service, and by Jeanette. my mother-in-law, a woman of limitless patience and discretion. I wish I could hug them both on Sunday and tell them in person what they mean to me, but a phone call will have to do. Be sure to tell your mother figures how important they are to you this week and as often as possible.

I have a special menu for those of you who want to make Mom’s day easy and tasty—you can find it here. If you are a mother on my list, know that I admire and respect you in your tireless devotion to your families.

Blessings and car kisses,

Ruth

Psst- the secret to perfect pie crust revealed here!

How do you make your pie crust? Why is your pie crust so flaky? What is the secret to perfect pie crust? These are the questions I most frequently receive, or some variation thereof.

You may have heard the following tips before and I also repeat them when posed the question of my pie crust:

  1. Use ice water when mixing the crust.
  2. Refrigerate the dough and allow it rest before rolling it out.
  3. Do not overhandle the dough or the crust will become tough.

But the Number 1 secret to MY pie crust is…(drum roll please) Practice. And the number 2 tip is Practice, also. See, I’ve made thousands of pie crusts in my days in the kitchen. A modest estimate of pie crusts rolled for the year 2016 is about 923. Thassa lotta pies! So of course I know the right amount of pressure to put on my rolling pin. And obviously I know how thin to spread the dough for the just right bottom and top layers of each pot pie, quiche, and fruit filled dessert. Your pies would absolutely be as flaky as mine if you had to make as many as I do!

So my advice:  keep making pies! Practice, practice, practice. Or not. You can always get them from Butterfield Gourmet! :)

Isn’t that true of most life skills, hobbies and endeavors? We need a lot of practice to get those things just right. If you really care about something, you won’t give up on the first couple of tries, but will attempt perfection again and again. I recommend you have a slice of pie and think about what you want to be really, really excellent at making and then create a practice plan to put it into action. Maybe two slices of pie—action plans require lots of fuel for the brain.  

 

You say potato, I say poe-tah-toe

I just love how everyone has their own name for certain dishes…whether it’s a regional thing, family history or even happenstance based on a memory or experience. I ran across this situation recently when in New York, having dinner with a group of women. If I recall correctly, we were discussing dietary limitations and I mentioned that I had gone “Whole30” for the month of January and thereby consumed a lot of eggs for breakfast.

Growing up, I must admit that I was not a “breakfast girl.” I didn’t like oatmeal, pancakes, waffles, or eggs. Cereal, toast and bacon were the few things I enjoyed for my morning meal. My father, however, adored all breakfasts, especially any variety of eggs my mother was serving up. One of her specialties was Roundin’ Eggs, for which she would cut perfectly round disks out of the center of a piece of sandwich bread using an upturned juice glass. She would then toast the bread and the little disks in a frying pan and crack an egg into the center of the hole in the toast. She’d slather the little crisp round toasts with butter & jam to serve alongside the Egg in Toast. I would happily eat all of those little disks but she insisted I eat an egg as well, much to my pouty disappointment.

What? Your version of Egg in Toast wasn’t called Roundin’ Eggs? Maybe you called yours Egg in a Basket or One-Eyed-Jack? Egg in a Hole? Moonstruck Eggs? (Do you remember the scene from that movie with Cher and Nicholas Cage? Olympia Dukakis plays Cher’s very Italian mother and cooks these eggs for her, adding roasted red peppers on top of each egg before serving them to the breakfast table. It’s a very famous foodie scene.)

making-eggs-in-a-basket
making-eggs-in-a-basket

My favorite variation has to be the cute story one of the ladies in NYC relayed to me about her parents. Terry told me that when her parents were newly married, her mother, Ronnie, wasn’t much of a cook. But she worked hard to please her new husband and one morning he requested french toast for breakfast. Well, she didn’t have Google to help her look up what a recipe for that dish entailed! So she made the fanciest (and to her, French) breakfast she could imagine, by cracking an egg in the middle of toast. He loved it and the dish was christened Ronnie’s French Toast.

I have finally grown up and love many things for breakfast…bagels & lox, green chile scrambled eggs in a tortilla, chicken ‘n waffles, blueberry pancakes, and of course, Roundin’ Eggs!