Thursday, October 29, 2009

Tea forté

I love tea. Hot, cold, extra sweet, white, red, herbal. I enjoy it all! Since I've been working and have access to hot water (after posting this, Natalie pointed out that it sounds like I don't have access to hot water in my home. Rest assured, I do, but because I have the convenience of a hot water dispenser at the office, it's easy to make tea!), I drink tea all day long. When holidays come around, I've asked for tea from my siblings and they've done a great job at surprising me with many different kinds from all over the world. Just this month for my birthday, my sister got me two Tea forté products. I opened one box today. The Autumn Collection has some unique flavor combos in silken pyramid sachets. Right now, I am drinking the White Ambrosia - white tea melded with vanilla and slices of coconut - a very mild and slightly sweet tea. Tomorrow I look forward to trying the Apple Pomegranate herbal tea and the Orchid Vanilla black tea. I also like the teabag string, which is bendy and stays nicely over the side of your cup (see the green leaf on the end of the string below).

Arielle also got me the Tea forté Cocktail Mixology set. I can't wait to try some of the tea cocktails - I am especially looking forward to the Lavendar Vodka Martini! I'll be sure to post a comment when I finally make it!

Arielle bought these at a kitchen shop in Lancaster, PA called Apron Strings. Adam and I are taking her back to school (she just started her first year at Franklin & Marshall College and will be home this weekend) on Sunday and we'll see downtown Lancaster. I believe this shop is closed Sundays but I'm sure we'll get down to visit her again soon.

I've also seen Tea forté products at TJ Maxx. You just have to look at the "Best Before" date on the bottom of the box. These teas are typically good for two years after they're produced.

While Tea forté produces gourmet teas and not something I'd buy to drink everyday, they make great gifts! I loved it!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dobbin House in Gettysburg

The post is up on Savvy Grouse about my dining experience at the Dobbin House in Gettysburg. The photos are really small on the post so I'll add them here. What delicious colonial cuisine!

Salad with house herbed vinaigrette
Jack's Hard Cider from Hauser Estate Winery in Biglerville, PA

Natalie's lamb chops and baked potato

My filet and sweet potato

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pumpkin Soup

As I look back on my past few posts, I realize I've been eating out a lot and not sharing any new recipes. I did make great bacon bleu burgers and pumpkin scones over the past 2 weeks but didn't get posts up of them :( From here until the holidays, it is my goal to stay home and cook more! With our crazy schedule though, we'll see if I can follow through!

This time of the year I think of apples and pumpkins... and more apples and pumpkins! After a weekend in Adams county, I came home with some apples, apple cider and hard apple cider. I'd find myself eating an apple and washing it down with cider. This weekend, I bought a pumpkin scented reed disfuser for Adam's living room, pumpkin spiced coffee creamer and ingredients for pumpkin soup. I just love the harvest season! To me, it's a very comforting, cozy time of year.

I whipped up this soup in no time on Saturday afternoon. Adam wasn't a big fan but myself and a friend of ours had 2 bowls in one evening. Adam's mom and I came to the conclusion that this soup cannot really be consumed in large quantities - a laddle-full for a starter course would be perfect. The actual soup recipe is very basic. The relish, which is sweet, spicy and savory, is wonderful!!! So many flavors melded together makes it very tasty! If you don't want to make the entire relish, I think just adding some sweet Craisins really play nicely with the savory pumpkin.

This is a Rachel Ray recipe from

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan
2 tablespoons butter
1 fresh bay leaf
2 ribs celery with greens, finely chopped1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning or 2 teaspoons ground thyme (I used thyme)
2 teaspoons hot sauce, or to taste (I used 1 teaspoon)
6 cups chicken stock
1 (28-ounce) can cooked pumpkin puree
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (I used dried ground nutmeg)

For a relish topping, which makes the soup more complex and flavorful:

1 crisp apple, such as McIntosh or Granny Smith, finely chopped (I used a McIntosh)
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries, chopped
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons honey (I used orange flavored honey from Aucker's Apiary in Millville, PA. Natalie bought me this honey at the Bloomsburg Fair. I love flavored honey in hot tea!)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Heat a medium soup pot over medium to medium high heat. Add the oil and melt the butter. Add bay, celery, and onion. Season the veggies with salt and pepper. Cook 6 or 7 minutes, until tender. Add flour, poultry seasoning and hot sauce, to taste, then cook flour a minute. Whisk in chicken stock and bring liquid to a bubble. Whisk in pumpkin in large spoonfuls to incorporate it into the broth. Simmer soup 10 minutes to thicken a bit then add in cream and nutmeg. Reduce heat to low and keep warm until ready to serve.
While soup cooks, assemble the relish: combine apple, onion, lemon juice, cranberries, chili powder, honey and cinnamon.

Adjust seasonings in soup and relish and serve soup in shallow bowls with a few spoonfuls of relish.

The relish

The finished product

For Adam's sake, I think I'll lay off the pumpkin for awhile!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Adam's Birthday Dinner at Devon in Hershey

Last week for Adam's birthday dinner, I wanted to take him somewhere to get his favorite treat: lobster. I've heard good things about Devon at the Hershey Press Building, right next door to Houlihan's, and decided it sounded like a good choice for seafood lovers (us!).

To start, we ordered Point Judith fried calamari, carrots and jalapeno peppers. You are a bit deceived by how much calamari is actually on the plate because of the breaded carrot matchsticks. But still, it was very good with the sweet and sour sauce & the spicy mayo dipping sauce. Oh and after some research, I found out that Point Judith is a small cape in Rhode Island.
For the main course: Adam's live Maine lobster, mashed potatoes and asparagus. Adam commented that it was one of the best lobsters he's ever had!
We enjoyed a bottle of Hogue "Genesis" merlot as well.

Here you'll see I had some grilled Atlantic salmon, green beans and risotto. There were several Canadian and Hawaiian fish on the menu.

All in all, our meal was very enjoyable. The service, on the other hand, needed some work. We felt like our waitress was hurrying us - she tried to take our plates away before we were done and brought our check way too early. Also, when I called to make reservations, I ordered a slice of chocolate cake and asked if they could put a candle in it and bring it out as a surprise for Adam. The woman taking the reservation said that it would be no problem. However, after our main course, the waitress brought over the dessert tray so I knew my special request slide through the cracks. A more upscale restaurant like Devon should have easily been able to accomodate my request. Oh well!
Adam didn't have a candle in his cake but I did sing to him, and coincidently, he chose the same cake from the dessert menu that I originally thought he'd enjoy - a chocolate cake topped with chocolate mousse, then chocolate ganache. Delicious!
And I must comment that the bar is beautiful so I'd recommend a visit just for a drink. I even made the comment to Adam that if we would go back, we'd even eat our meal at the bar.
Overall, we had a very nice time and tasty dinner at Devon. Oh and don't forget to go to their website and sign up for their emails - you get an initial $10 coupon and $25 for your birthday. There is also a Devon in Philadelphia, as well as other cities across the country.

Happy 26th Birthday, Adam! I wish you all the happiness possible... this year and always! ;)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mexico was delicious!

Adam and I experienced a wonderful three night stay at the El Dorado Royale in Cancun, Mexico! For my birthday, I wanted to go somewhere tropical but easy on the wallet so Cancun it was! Ok... so you're thinking, crazy and wild Cancun doesn't sound like my cup of tea. Well, you're wrong! I went to the Riu Cancun last November and loved it but the El Dorado Royale was even quieter and more romantic than I was expecting. El Dorado is an adult only, spa resort with several restaurants serving up delicious gourmet food. While all of our dining experiences weren't perfect, we enjoyed some pretty great meals.

We had lunch at JoJo's all three days we were there. We not only fell in love with the view, we also enjoyed our server Samuel (we had him all three days) and the conch chowder!

The creamy and flavorful conch chowder.

To satisfy the fried food craving that can even attack you in paradise, Adam tried the fish and chips served with guacamole.

Two different times, Adam enjoyed this melon and spinach salad, topped with unidentifiable yet delicious cheese.

The view from our table at JoJos.

For a lunch, I had the lamb stew.

We loved the guacamole and pico de gallo at JoJos! It wasn't on the menu but I was craving chips and salsa, and when I found out they have these, I ordered them every chance I got!

Delicious ice cream - the cocnut was my favorite - served on top of sugar brittle at JoJos.

Mexican cake surprise that Adam enjoyed very much (and he's not a huge cake lover).

Here is the bottle of wine and the cheese and meat for my birthday pre-dinner snack.

Our first morning at El Dorado, we ordered room service breakfast. Not bad but then we discovered a beautiful restaurant call La Isla where we ate our other 2 breakfasts. The fruit and bread buffet was beautiful. I enjoyed toast with nutella and caramel spread, sprinkled with chopped nuts and toasted coconut. I have to remember to re-create this snack during the cold winters in Pennsylvania!

I did a very poor job of taking pictures at dinner. I'm always taking photos and dinners in Mexico served as a break. Even though we didn't photograph every part of our 4 course meals, between this post and the previous post, you can see that we ate (and drank!!) well. Next time you're looking for a getaway, I recommend El Dorado Royale!


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Chef Staib Dinner at Harvest

A few weeks ago, I had the distinct pleasure of enjoying an evening at Harvest, a new restaurant on the grounds of the Hotel Hershey. The Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau sponsored my experience at Harvest because the hotel was hosting a very special guest chef - Walter Staib, Proprietor of The City Tavern in Philadelphia. I was very excited to hear that Chef Staib was going to be at Harvest for many reasons. First, my good friend Tim is a chef at Harvest and this was the first time I had the opportunity to eat at the restaurant. Second, I have eaten at the City Tavern in Philadelphia two times and had wonderful experiences there. And third, I had sampled one of Chef Staib's appetizer creations at a food event in Philly just a few months ago.

The cozy dining atmosphere at Harvest

To start the evening, I attended a reception where I had a nice conversation with Chef Staib. He told me about his upcoming series on PBS, a series of his cooking experiences at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. A Taste of History will begin airing this fall. I was also able to try one of the Ales of Revolution - the beers served at the City Tavern. The Poor Richards Tavern Spruce Ale is based on Ben Franklin's original recipe containing hints of spruce and molasses.

On to dinner! The dishes we had to choose from are all found in Chef Staib's cookbooks. For the amuse, we had the smoked pheasant en croute. Next on to the Appetizer - I chose the corn and crab chowder and it was amazing! The rich and creamy base was very flavorful and the combo of corn and crab is a wonderful comfort soup for the fall. For my entree, I couldn't pass up the pan seared beef medallions with mashed potatoes and the General Washington Tavern Porter Sauce. Delicately tender beef and a sturdy sauce to go with it. For dessert, Martha Washington's Chocolate Mousse cake with vanilla sauce was a rich and chocolately way to end the meal.

Simulanteously, my dining partner, Jamie, enjoyed the salad of Romaine lettuce with cumbled Maytag blue cheese and a burgundy Dijion vinaigrette for her appetizer. For her main course, she selected the turkey pot pie with fall vegetables topped with puff pastry. And for her dessert, warm bread pudding served with rum flavored creme anglaise.

The kitchen team at Harvest did a phenomenal job of perfectly pulling together a night of Chef Staib's creations!

At Harvest, 80% of the ingredients used in the kitchen are gathered/raised within 100 miles from the restaurant. For example, on that evening's menu, there was a sauteed brook trout that was raised in Lancaster County. Almost all of the vegetables used at the restaurant are local, including the gatherings from a small herb garden on the grounds of the Hotel. The service, ambiance and meal was outstanding and I look forward to another visit to Harvest very soon!

The amuse - pheasant en croute

Turkey Potpie

Beef Medallions

Chocolate Mousse Cake

Bread Pudding

I would like to thank Chef Staib for the newest edition of his Tavern Cookbook. I am excited to try some dishes from your collection. A thank you to Jamie for being my dinner date and for your great photography skills. And most importantly, a thank you to the Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau for sponsoring my evening.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Home from Mexico

I'm back from my birthday trip and have been very busy at work (I have to work through the weekend.. blah) so I haven't had time to get a post up to tell about our trip. Until I can write out the details, enjoy these photos of some treats we devoured at El Dorado Royale:

coconut and chocolate ice cream

tuna with a guava and olive foam

grilled papaya salad


Caribbean fish