Monday, January 10, 2022

The Red Robe

We are Auburn people. We do not do houndstooth. We do not do red, in any shade...crimson (especially crimson) maroon, scarlet, burgundy, ruby or tomato. I have many Alabama friends and I love them, but I do not like their football team. They know this and accept it. In all honesty, they don't like my team either. Occasionally one of them will declare, quite magnanimously, "I pull for Auburn, except during the Iron Bowl." Yeah, it's easy to be bighearted when your team is in the National Championship Game...Every. Single. Year.  When JD was trying to decide where he wanted to go to college, he visited Mississippi State. He asked his dad if he would wear Mississippi State maroon if that's the college he chose. Scott didn't elaborate. He just said, "Nope." Apparently Rob, an Auburn graduate himself, does not understand this concept. I'm not sure where it came from, but at some point a red, terry cloth robe showed up in our house, perhaps left by an Alabama friend trying to mess with our minds. Anyway, Rob found it and adopted it. Like a pet. And now the darn thing shows up at the oddest times. The first time I realized we had a problem was in January a few years ago. Rob was packing to go back to Auburn. He came downstairs wearing THE ROBE and some navy house shoes his grandmother had given him for Christmas. He was loading his truck, his filthy truck, and while I thought it strange he hadn't dressed to go back to school before he began packing up, it did not occur to me that he wouldn't change clothes before he left. He didn't. I asked, "Why?"  He said, "I'm comfortable." I asked, "What if you get stopped?" He said, "I won't." And off he went, to the land of orange and blue in a red robe. Now it must be told, he did actually have on clothes under THE ROBE, but, still, he had on a red robe and house shoes. And his truck was still filthy. 

I shared this with my friends on Facebook. The memory pops up every year and the legend of THE ROBE grows. Sort of like the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, only it's the Brotherhood of the Red Robe. Rob's friend, JP, said THE ROBE traveled with them to the beach once. He thought he had a picture of Rob wearing THE ROBE on the beach feeding seagulls. Sure enough, he did. I couldn't believe it. There's Rob, in the red robe, standing on a beach chair feeding the birds. 

Rob is now in Arizona. Red is much more acceptable out there, at least for us. People can just assume he is a Sun Devil. And THE ROBE is still proving its use. The boys were invited to a Halloween party this past October. JD went as the baby toting, Alan Garner, from The Hangover. Rob, having been in Austin for a month and not having time to pull together a costume, pulled out THE ROBE, the slippers and a pipe and went as Hugh Hefner. Now I think, we are stuck with THE ROBE forever. It will be handed down to future generations as a priceless artifact. Stories will be told about THE ROBE and they will be embellished. It will grow in relevance and will, I expect, be endowed with great powers, a totem, if you will. In the meantime, I wonder what will be the next great adventure for Rob's red robe. Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Best Hummus Ever

I love hummus. Good hummus, that is. Sometimes the pre-made stuff in the grocery store is barely deserving of the name hummus. Grainy, gritty, and tasteless, it isn't worth the calories or the cost. When I hear people say they do not like hummus, I have to wonder if they've been the victim of some of that pre-packaged paste.

Not only do I love well-made hummus, I love hummus accoutrements. Hamilton's in Auburn has some of the best, in my opinion. Rob and I love it so much, we've been known to order two plates of the stuff. These are not small plates either. Hamilton's serves up full sized plates of hummus, sprinkled heavily with smoked paprika and surrounded by warm pita wedges, pickled onions, olives and pepperoncini pepper rings. It's so good!

Lately, I've been on a mission to perfect my hummus making skills. I've done it every way you can imagine, with canned garbanzos and with dried, plain and with add-ins, but in the back of my mind, I always thought it could be better.

With hummus, texture is a big deal. If it is too grainy or too pasty, the taste suffers. I want a hummus that is seriously fluffy and creamy. The stuff dreams are made of. I was flipping through some hummus recipes the other day and discovered that Bon Appétit had named hummus as their 2015 Dish of the Year. I decided it must be some really delicious hummus to garner that billing, so I checked it out. The hummus in question is the creation of a Philadelphia chef named Michael Solomonov and he has some interesting tips for making hummus.

1. Boil the garbanzos in water into which baking soda has been added. I'm no chemist, but according to Solomonov, this raises the pH of the water and helps break down the proteins in the beans which, in turn, creates an ultra-smooth purée when you put them in the food processor.

2. Use good tahini and lots of it. Do not skimp on this ingredient. While I have not yet tried Chef Solomonov's favorite tahini from Soom Foods, I do have it on order. I cannot wait to try it, because the Chef's other suggestions have made a world of difference to my hummus.

3. Chop the garlic cloves finely and puree with freshly squeezed lemon juice. Let sit for at least 10 minutes to give the garlic time to mellow.  This prevents that sharp garlic bite that can sometimes overtake recipes.

4. Use ice water to bring the mixture to its creamy, dreamy smoothness.

5. Chef Solomonov does not add olive oil to his hummus, but he does drizzle the hummus liberally with olive oil before serving. I did add just a little to my hummus while processing, but not nearly as much as I have with previous recipes.

6. Dr. Rick Marshall, aka Will Ferrell, says in Land of the Lost, "If Chaka meat were the secret ingredient on Iron Chef, I'm sure Bobby Flay would probably serve it with roasted red peppers and a dash of cumin and a braised polenta." Well, Solomonov, would probably agree, because he also adds a dash of cumin to his hummus. It's that little bit of umami that makes the difference. 

6. Chef Solomonov suggests the following toppings: hot smoked Spanish paprika, fresh lemon juice, chopped parsley, radishes, fennel fronds, and mango pickles. I am going to figure out how to duplicate Hamilton's pickled onions and throw on the pepperoncini pepper rings.

Another favorite hummus topping of mine is a Galli Hot Pepper Italian Salad of jalapeños and olives made in Destin, FL. We've been buying this stuff since we first discovered it in a little shop in Callaway Gardens thirty years ago. Now we just order it from Amazon.

My newest discovery is Burrata, which is a mild, fresh mozzarella, stuffed with mozzarella curds and cream. It tastes a lot like whipped unsweetened cream and is divine when spread on top of hummus and sprinkled with salt and red pepper flakes. If you've never bought Burrata, here are a couple of things you might want to know. It is packed in water, like fresh mozzarella. There are only two Burrata balls in the BelGiosioso container, so you aren't getting a lot, as the container is mostly filled with water. You cut the mozzarella ball open to dig out the creamy goodness inside. That's the part you spread on your hummus.

But make no mistake, this hummus is delicious all on it's own on pita wedges or with tortilla chips.

Here's the recipe:

1 can garbanzo beans...pour into a saucepan, cover with several inches of water, add 1/2 t. baking soda and let boil for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, pour into mesh strainer and rinse with cold running water for about 30 seconds. Set aside.

2. 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped and the juice of 2 freshly squeezed lemons...add these to food processor with1/2 t. salt and puree away until the garlic is super fine. Let sit for at least 10 minutes.

3. 1/2 c. of the best tahini you can find...add to lemon garlic mixture in food processor. While motor runs, splash in 2 T. ice water and blend until smooth, creamy and very light in color.

4. 1/2 t. cumin and 1 T. Extra Virgin Olive Oil...add these to the tahini lemon mixture in the food processor along with the cooked and drained garbanzos. Continue processing until the hummus is fluffy and light, super creamy and cloud-like. Place in serving dish, drizzle liberally with good olive oil and sprinkle with smoked paprika, freshly chopped parsley or fresh cracked pepper. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Leaving Nashville: Puckett's Grocery

Sadly, our weekend in Nashville was coming to an end, but we are not the kind of friends to go quietly into the good night. Oh, no, we were going to squeeze one last hurrah out of this trip if it killed us. Lu had to get back home early for a family get together, so Julie, Merri and I decided to go home by way of Franklin for a little more shopping and, of course, lunch.

Downtown Franklin was preparing for a beer festival later in the day, so there was lots of activity. Tents were being set up all along the streets and vendors were busy putting up tables and getting their goods ready to sell. While there was a lot of activity, because we were there before the festival began, we were actually ahead of the crowds. There are so many cute shops in Franklin, that we were kept busy for quite a while before we realized we had not eaten all day. Famished, we made our way to Puckett's Grocery right in the heart of downtown Franklin.

If you remember our last trip to visit my niece in Franklin, we enjoyed dinner at Puckett's Boathouse. We really enjoyed Puckett's Boathouse, so we had high hopes for Puckett's Grocery. Puckett's Grocery opened in 2004 and was actually the second restaurant in the group of restaurants owned by Andy Marshall. The first Puckett's Grocery actually started out as a grocery store in Lieper's Fork and Marshall gradually transformed it into a restaurant and music venue with headliners like Lady Antebellum. 

Inside, Puckett's Grocery Franklin is crowded with tables and has that old time country grocery store feel. We had a short wait and were given a buzzer so we would know when our table was ready. Luckily, there is an open doorway from Puckett's into the next shop which happened to be a cute little dress shop, so we amused ourselves in there until our buzzer buzzed.

While we looked at the menu, Merri couldn't resist the watermelon martini. It was really refreshing. 

 Just looking at these pictures makes me hungry all over again! The Nashville hot chicken sandwich that I ordered was so good. It came with fries and coleslaw and lots of pickles. It was spicy hot, but not too hot.

Merri ordered the chicken salad sandwich, but asked for it without the bread. The server was very accommodating and brought her a beautiful chicken salad plate with sweet potato fries. Merri loved it!

Jules got the fried green tomato BLT, also with sweet potato fries. It was delicious as well.

Julie loves cherry cobbler, so she could not resist when she saw that on the menu. It was wonderful, too. 

Having stuffed ourselves yet again, we were finally ready to bid Tennessee adieu and head home to Alabama. It was a wonderful weekend with great friends, lots of laughs and scrumptious food. We will be back, Nashville!

Three Friends and a Fork give Puckett's Grocery 3 Old Fashioned Yums UP!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Music City Memories Part 2: Sky Blue, Sinema, Acme Feed and Seed & More

We started day two of our Nashville adventure in the east part of Nashville known as the Fatherland District. This trendy neighborhood is home to hip restaurants, cool shops and hot entertainment. Merri, Julie and I hopped in our Uber ride and met Luanne for brunch at a very busy little joint called Sky Blue.

Sky Blue is tiny, so my first advice is, get there early. They don't take reservations or call ahead seating, so expect a wait time. But, don't despair. The wait is totally worth it. The portions are huge and the menu is varied, so there is something for everyone.

Merri and Julie decided to order two different entrees and share so they each got something sweet and something savory. They settled on brie stuffed french toast and a breakfast sandwich. I think we all agreed the brie stuffed french toast was the best thing any of us ordered. It was divine!


I went Tex-Mex with a steak burrito. It was enormous and tasty and so were the hand-cut fries.

Luanne got a crazy, humongous sandwich made of pancakes and stuffed with eggs, cheese and bacon. I took a picture from both sides, so you could see all of the ridiculous goodness. 


After our breakfast, we strolled around the rest of Fatherland District, checking out all the quaint little shops. We got our chocolate fix at Chocolate FX. We each got an assortment of truffles and toffees and loved each and everyone of them. Tip two...go to Chocolate FX and load up!

We moseyed into Galena Garlic on a whim and I thought we would never get out! You know how it is when you go into a Hallmark shop and you start reading all the funny cards and just cannot stop? Well, the Galena Garlic experience is kind of like that only you are not reading card after card. You are tasting vinegar after vinegar! I have never tasted so many different kinds of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. We ended up buying so much we had to have it shipped back home. I especially loved the coconut and vanilla vinegars and basil olive oil. Merri got lemon-mint and pomegranate vinegars and rosemary olive oil. Julie ended up with blackberry-ginger and apricot vinegars and a bunch of handmade soaps. The thing is, with these delicious vinegars on your salad, you don't have to have any other dressing. Delicious. Along with the vinegars, olive oils and handmade soaps, Galena Garlic also had pouches of mixed dried seasonings to spice up your recipes. Tip three...visit Galena Garlic, but be prepared to stay awhile!

We visited Lu's daughter, Caroline. Caroline is a Nashvillian now and she works part time in the district at an eclectic little shop called Rusty Rats. The place is full of vintage finds. If you visit, please tell her, "hi!" from her mom and me. 


We left Fatherland and ventured downtown to a quirky store called Two Old Hippies. This expansive store was full of clothing, jewelry, musical instruments and lots more. We had lots of fun poking around here.

From Two Old Hippies, we called our Uber driver again and hitched a ride to Centennial Park to check out the Tennessee Craft Fair. We strolled around the shady park checking out all the beautiful handmade arts and crafts. We found ourselves especially drawn to the many vendors selling gorgeous jewelry. Julie and Luanne both scored some amazing pieces. The little guy above watched over the event from his lofty perch in this tall catawba tree. 


After our walk through Centennial Park, we Ubered ourselves back to our room to freshen up and then we headed to dinner. We had reservations at a beautiful restaurant in an old theater called, Sinema. Sticking with the cinematic theme, Sinema had old movies playing on large screens above the tables and the place was decorated with old movie advertisements and photos of famous stars. Sinema is a white table cloth kind of restaurant, so Tip four is dress accordingly if you decide to dine at Sinema.


We began our Sinema experience with cocktails. The drink names were all inspired by different movies or stars, which we loved. Merri had a Style and Grace with Cathead Vodka, Merlet Creme de Muire, lemon, mint and sparkling rosé.

Luanne went with a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Cucumber which involved gin, lemongrass, lime and cucumber.

Julie ordered a Caribbean Queen with rum, honey, lime and grapefruit.


I ended up with How Rande met Cindy, composed of vodka, St. Germain, pineapple, cayenne syrup and lemon.

After tasting each of the drinks, we all agreed Julie's Caribbean Queen was the best. While we enjoyed our drinks, we nibbled on this crusty fresh baked foccacia with an herby white bean butter. It was so good!

Then we got down to business and selected our entrees. 

Julie had this beautiful dish of red curry dumplings. It was unusual and delicious!


Merri had an airline breast of chicken over grits, greens and cranberry beans.


Luanne had the fresh catch. I think it was cobia.


I had a luscious vegetarian pasta dish with veggies, homemade pasta and fresh mozzarella.

We chose two desserts to share:


A refreshing Very Berry Summer of mixed berries and red wine sorbet, and

The Lime in the Coconut, a heavenly combination of coconut glazed lime cream filled doughnuts with coconut lime sorbet. Divine!

After dinner we met Merri's nephew and his friend at Acme Feed and Seed. The place is huge and busy, and the views of the city from the top of the building are magnificent. It was a great way to end our busy day!


We had a great time in Nashville and can't wait for our next girl's getaway! Three Friends and a Fork give 3 big Yums UP to Sky Blue, Sinema, Chocolate FX, Galena Garlic and Acme Feed and Seed!