The Low Down

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Seafood Edition #2: Oysters

I feel cozy in paradox.

While I may shy away from raw oysters, one of my absolute favorite foods in America is a char-grilled oyster from Drago’s in New Orleans. So, upon our family outing to the Original Oyster House on the Causeway for my mother’s birthday, I decided to try a similar dish-- the oyster sampler.* It was a lovely arrangement, including 3 different varieties of oysters: fried, baked with Parmesan cheese, herbs & butter, and the house specialty. (Marinara sauce and ham were involved.)

Any time I have ordered oysters at the O.O.H., I have ooooooh-ed. They are delectable. Not sure what they bathe the little bottom feeders in before they are cooked, but they are quite nice- especially the fried ones. The baked versions were nice too, but it’s a shame to compare anything to one of my absolute favorite foods in America. I was so enraptured by my pearly feast and the rowdy family conversation that I did not realize that I had an amazing sweet chili sauce to dip with. My plate was clean when I discovered it, so I had to borrow a few of J’s leftover shrimp and other samples from around the table so I could enjoy the sauce more fully. In conclusion: next time I go to O.O.H. I must be in the mood for fried food. And I’m asking for a gallon of the chili sauce.

Also, a very Happy Birthday to my unique and inspiring mother; and to my grandmother who did all the work. 

*I am aware of the old saying that one shouldn’t eat oysters in months that do not contain an “R,” but my grandmother assures me that farm raised oysters have created a cozy paradigm shift to year-round oyster eating. Your thoughts?

Original Oyster House on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 20, 2012

Let Them Eat Cake

Can we all just agree that we are tired of eating cupcakes? 

...Ok, now that we are all in agreement, let’s go back to eating cake. This cake: Dean’s (slap-yo-mamma) 7-Layer Caramel Cake  from Andalusia, Alabama.

I bring this up because J and I are doing a juice fast this weekend in an effort to reset our taste-buds. So, naturally, my daydreams are vacillating between bacon cheeseburgers and my favorite store-bought cake in America. Ugh. Yum.

Aunt Dean’s got it down, y’all. She recognizes cake for what it really is: a skeleton for its muscle, a frame for its drywall, a blank canvas for its Chagall, a set-worker for its Madama Butterfly. What I'm trying to say is: the true star in Aunt Dean’s cake is the icing. Oh, the icing! Her caramel spread has a contrasting sweet and smoky bite and that will make you wonder if there was an epic battle for good and evil fought in its fruition. Holy moly, it's good.

I admit, I'm so in love with the caramel, I've yet to venture out and try her many other cake flavors. Aunt Dean's website says her cake business all started with a Sock-It-To-Me accident. (How’s that for intrigue?) It also includes all the local places you can pick them up. I usually get mine at Allegri Farm Market in Daphne.

So tell me... what's your favorite cake?

Dean's Cake House on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 16, 2012

Country Conversion

My conversion to country girl may have just become complete. I learned how to drive a tractor yesterday.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Ode to the DEEP South (New Zealand)

It has been a productive week in the kitchen! Geez Louise, we are going to gain weight with all this deliciousness! Yesterday marked 3 years for J & I, so I made him one of his favorite things in the wide world:

NZ Meat and Cheese Pie!

It was really good, although I don't think I did the real Kiwi version justice. I used this recipe, but it was too ketchupy. Next time I'll probably make a similar version with a tiny bit of tomato paste in place of the ketchup and maybe less soy sauce.

It was funny because I realized as I was cooking that I was wearing a New Zealand shirt from my dear friend Vee. And Justin arrived wearing an All Blacks jersey. Clearly we are smitten with this country! It's not hard to see why:

This is a collage I had printed on a canvas and gave to J for taking me with him to New Zealand in April. It's of pictures we both took on the trip. (By the way, I used a Groupon for this company. It turned out really great, but I had to wait about 5 weeks to get it.) It was an incredible trip, not just for the beauty, but mainly all the new friends I made! Love you guys!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Change in View

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. So, I decided I needed a little attitude adjustment. I'm so grateful to live 2 minutes from the water, it's a perfect place for prayer and silent reflection.

Where do you go to re-center?

Monday, July 9, 2012

You Know You Are Loved When...

... I make this cake for you...

J's brother & his fiance were in town this weekend, so we threw them a bridal shower. When my newlywed cousin (who is also J's brother's wife, think about it,) suggested we make the same cake I made for her shower, I took a deep breath and nodded my head, warning her that it would be quite a project. We did take some shortcuts this time - like using cake mix. Good decision!! If you are dying to spend a whole day in the kitchen, I made you a list of what is in it. I won't bore you with all of the steps, I'm sure you can figure out most of them.

2 Boxes Duncan Hines Vanilla Cake with Vanilla Pudding mixed in, of course!
Simple Syrup with Lemon juice to coat the layers right after they come out of the oven
Homemade Buttercream Icing
Lemon-Raspberry Curd for the filling between the bottom two layers and the topping. I used the lemon curd from this recipe, and just added raspberries after it cooled.

I saw the rose thing here first. It's super-easy, but slightly time consuming. She explains the technique really well, but I used a different tip than she did. I don't even know what it is called, but it looks like a 5-point star.

My cousin and I worked long and hard on this, so it was great to see that it was a huge hit at the shower. Even for "non-cake people." It looked great, but tasted even better!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Free Book Friday: Pure Poetry

You've already heard me gush about the wonders of the LS2 app. Now, something else I love about the BC Library system, particularly the Fairhope branch: Free Books.

You are judging me right now, so let me explain... The library is constantly taking in donations for its collection. Many of them are (surprisingly) not in hot demand, so they end up going straight to the free shelf. Anyone can pick them up and take them home for keeps. A few weeks ago, I found this delightful book:

It was published in 1934, such a pivotal point in our history! My grandparents were little kids and America (and its popular poetry) were still quite square. It makes me nostalgic for a time I never lived through. I get a giggle from this treasure every time I pick it up. And my favorite part is the running commentary that Ted Malone peppers each page with. I mean, how could you compete with this little gem?

Thank you, Mrs. Myrtle, whoever you are, for parting with this book!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Music Monday: Pop Music

There are three things I love almost as much as chocolate: Music, Free Stuff & Sunsets. Imagine my surprise when I learned that I could have all three of these things in one evening. (And chocolate to boot!)

As I've already told you, J is a master at impromptu date planning and a few weeks ago he wowed me again. We picked up a huge calzone and salad from The Ravenite*, and went over to The Bluff in Fairhope for a free Baldwin Pops sunset concert. The music was nice and the crowd was watch-worthy. After the concert, we drove down to the The Grand for some hot chocolate and a stroll on the gorgeous live oak covered grounds. Although the hot chocolate is nothing to write home about, I would never pass up a chance to walk around by the Bay! BTW - Did you know they just put up hammocks???

Sorry Ladies, this bf is taken!

*Note about The Ravenite: My days in Atlanta fostered a love for local, grungy, less-than-sanitary-looking pizza joints. This is really my favorite of that genre. They've got the grunge-factor down and the pies are really great. I just wish they served by the slice!