Friday, May 29, 2015

Red Sky Cafe

One late afternoon/early evening on vacation, we walked the length of the Duck Boardwalk and then back to the car. Quite a stroll! We were hungry but we didn't have any dinner plans. The places right on the boardwalk didn't excite us so we decided to try a barbecue place across the street from the boardwalk. Sadly, it was closed. So we tried another place: Red Sky Cafe. It was so good I'm glad the barbecue place was closed.
SP ordered Duck Rabbit beer and I had iced tea. He started off with Asparagus Soup, which he said was terrific.
We shared an order of Scallops Casino (scallops served with tomato-bacon-pepper relish, tortilla strips, avocado cream).
This dish was fantastic. The scallops were cooked perfectly, the tortillas added a nice crunch, the avocado cream was cooling, and the relish had that wonderful taste of bacon and it was warm. We ate every bit of food on the plate.
While we were devouring the scallops we were also devouring a tasty, warm, soft inside, crunchy crust bread served with a warm spinach cheese dip. The dip was so good, creamy and cheesy. We ate it all, mopping up every last bit with bread.
SP's entree was the Wood Fired Trio (crab cake, shrimp, and fish of the day (trout, I think) roasted in a brick oven and served with asparagus and a creamy red pepper sauce). It was a lot of food, but he ate it all, saying it was very, very good.
I chose the Shrimp & Grits (jumbo shrimp sauteed with bacon, in a wood fired tomato Cajun cream sauce, with spinach and grits). Very good. It had a great tomato, bacon, and cream taste followed by the heat of the Cajun spices. After a while it got a little too spicy/hot for me but I kept eating it because the tomato, bacon, and cream taste was so darn good. SP tasted the sauce and didn't find it too hot, but he's not a spice wimp like me. He said he would've scooped up every last bit of sauce. I ate all the shrimp and most of the grits before feeling too stuffed to continue eating.

We looked at the desserts, but since we both were full and nothing really grabbed our attention, we passed.

Red Sky Cafe was one of the restaurants on my list and I'm glad we got to try it because we both really enjoyed our meals. We'd definitely go back. Our server was great, too. We didn't have reservations and arrived around 6 pm and were seated right away. Shortly after we were seated, the place filled up. I'm not sure if everyone had reservations or not, but in retrospect, I think we were lucky to walk in without a reservation and be seated right away on a Saturday evening in early May.

Red Sky Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Thursday Thoughts

1. Memorial Day weekend was quite a busy weekend. Saturday was lots of running around/shopping and food prep. Sunday we had people over. Monday we cleaned up, did laundry, and SP transplanted all our seedlings and newly purchased plants to their designated plots. Our petunias didn't grow from seed this year, so we ended up buying some at Home Depot.
2. I hope our guests had fun and enjoyed the food. We grilled & smoked pork loin and ribs, made a pasta salad, and baked a chocolate cake. Our friends brought lots of tasty wine, baked beans with bacon & onion, chips, snickerdoodle cupcakes, apple chips, almond cookies, Klondikes, vegetable pizza, and this:
Edamame Hummus. I'm not sure what is in it besides edamame, olive oil, and garlic. Probably some tahini and lemon? Maybe some herbs, like parsley or cilantro, maybe something like cumin or coriander? It was a big hit with everyone (I didn't try any).
3. SP has been munching on a huge bowl of mixed greens and pea shoots that he grew in the garden and harvested on Monday.

4. My new tablet arrived. It makes my old one look even older and sadder. I got a Samsung Galaxy S, in dazzling white, and got a purple case to protect it. So shiny and new and fast. Did I mention fast? It doesn't take 2 minutes to try to load a page and then tell me the browser isn't responding. Or tell me the processing core isn't responding (or whatever that horrible message of doom is). Or randomly freeze for 5 minutes.

5. We finally started watching Interstellar. We've had the movie from Netflix for 2 months now. We watched half last night and will finish it tonight. So far, it's interesting, I just have lots of science/math questions for SP. I tried to look stuff up but as soon as I saw mathematical equations and formulas, my eyes glazed over and my brain shut down and I remembered why I did not become an engineer like my brother, dad, and grandpa. And SP.

6. We just made our final car payment! There were only 3 payments left so I made a big final payment. It feels so good to have that done. For now. There has already been talk of what the next car will be. But I'd really like some time without a car payment.

7. I read Ming Tea Murder by Laura Childs this week. I still have a stack of 5 books plus all the magazines arrived at the same time, so I have 6 magazines to read. Someday I'll have time to get back to my cross-stitch but I am seriously doubting my ability to finally finish it this year. Every time I think about it, I remember that I am on the "use annoying gold thread to do detail work on solid black background so it's tough to count and my eyeballs go crazy" stage and I lose all interest.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Colington Cafe

Back to writing about where we ate on vacation in NC! I had many restaurants on our Outer Banks dinner list, but it turns out our hotel location limited us a wee bit. One night, we drove 30-40 minutes to Kill Devil Hills to dine at The Colington Cafe. It's a cute house turned into restaurant with casual, country/beach decor.
We ordered wine and munched on some warm rolls while waiting for our food to arrive. SP started off with She Crab Bisque. It was delicious and warming on a blustery, rainy day. I loved the trail of paprika across the soup and there was a nice sherry flavor and lots of crab flakes.
We shared the Scallops Rumaki appetizer. Bacon wrapped scallops topped with teriyaki ginger sauce.
These were delicious! Five plump, juicy scallops wrapped in crispy bacon and topped with a sweet, gingery sauce and sesame seeds.
SP had the Grilled Shrimp with garlic smashed potatoes and succotash for his meal. He said the shrimp had a nice grilled flavor and were cooked just right.
Of course I was the more decadent one: Shrimp & Scallop Napoleon. Shrimp & scallops in a sherry cream sauce. It wasn't as creamy & heavy as I expected but it definitely tasted rich and delicious.
I got fries instead of garlic potatoes and dipped my fries and leftover bread in the sauce because it was so good. SP even gave a few of his grilled shrimp a quick dip in the sauce. Plump, juicy scallops and perfectly cooked shrimp.
We shared 2 desserts. One was a Chocolate-Raspberry Cake and the other a Lemon-Raspberry Cake. The chocolate one was chocolaty but not a super rich, thick chocolate. The lemon was light and fluffy and lemony. Both were tasty.
We couldn't quite finish them, so we took the leftovers back to the hotel to finish later that night.

Definitely a place we'd return if we are again in the area. The food was very good and the service was very good, too. They were very helpful with quickly getting me out of the wind and rain while SP parked and up the ramp on the side of the house when we arrived and just as helpful when we left. Our server happily answered our questions and was just a cheerful person to be around.

  Colington Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Moist Chocolate Bundt Cake

I've been making this Moist Chocolate Cake for years. I know that SP & I have make it, but it had not yet made it onto the blog. I think I discovered the recipe in Quick Cooking Magazine way back in 2001 or 2002 because I can remember baking it for my brother & his family on a trip to their KY home shortly after I broke my hip (the first broken hip!).
It's super easy and quick to make. Whisk together dry ingredients, add wet, mix for 2 minutes with electric mixer, pour into greased & floured bundt pan, bake. Just remember to flour the pan with cocoa powder and not white flour so the cake comes out with a nice chocolate color and not a lightly floured top.
We baked this cake over the weekend for the Memorial Day gathering we had. We had 11 people over and this cake supposedly serves 12 - but there were several other desserts, too (Klondikes, snickerdoodle cupcakes, cookies) so there was not a shortage of dessert goodies.
The cake was a hit. Everyone said it had a terrific rich chocolate flavor and that it was very moist. That's what I really like about it - it is very moist and it stays moist in the cake keeper for a few days. It doesn't dry out quickly like some cakes. The coffee and buttermilk make it extra rich tasting and moist.
I didn't photograph the cake the day of the party. These are photos of the leftovers! Before serving it, we dusted the top with powdered sugar, but that of course simply dissolves into the cake after a few hours. It makes it look pretty, but it doesn't really add to the flavor of the cake.

Definitely a cake we'll keep making because it's probably our favorite chocolate cake - delicious, quick, easy, uses one bundt pan instead of multiple layer pans, and no frosting.

Recipe here. The recipe in this link says canola oil, but my ripped from the magazine recipe says vegetable oil so that's what we always use. We also baked ours an extra 5 minutes this time.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Friday Things

1. Our current dilemma: The air conditioning check up tech said everything is fine (more or less), it works (technically, it blows cool air), and there's nothing specifically wrong, but since it's 22 years old, it's not sucking out the heat as well as it should and not cooling as well as it should. Its current SEER is around 10. That's... not good. There's nothing to fix/replace. It's just old age. It could die at any time, but there aren't any indications of when. He also said that it's going to keep declining and we'll notice it working less & less effectively (like we did the weekend we got home from NC). In fact, he said that this summer on the 85+ days, we'll have trouble with it keeping the house cooled to 78.

So annoying! We can ride it out until we are sure we want to replace it (ready to spend the $) or until it dies and we have to replace it (and suffer without it for a few days). If we wait, we'll likely suffer a bit on the super hot & muggy days in July & August. Or we can just bite the bullet now and spend the $ for a new one. Or we can just move into the perpetually cool basement for the super hot days. Or we could replace it and be happy anywhere in the house on hot days.

What to do...?????????

2. Meanwhile the yard guys came today. So SP decided it was time to check the mail. Funny how when the customer is home, everything gets done and gets done nicely.

3. After my tablet froze a gazillion times last night and re-booted a zillion times, I think it's pretty clear it's time for me to replace it. Tomorrow's shopping includes a trip to Best Buy.

4. When does the weekend cocktail hour start? I see $ flying out of the bank account and feel stressed.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Thursday Thoughts

1. Tomorrow is the appointment for the a/c unit check up. I'm a little worried. On the one hand, after those initial 2-3 days of seeming to be sick, it's been fine, keeping up with the heat inside and cooling as desired. On the other hand, SP took a closer look at the stickers/information on the unit and discovered ours is from 1993. So it's 22 years old. That doesn't seem to bode well for a happy, problem free, working great a/c system!

2. Of course this morning we had to turn on the furnace because the house was 68 degrees and we were chilly. I think I saw a possible frost warning for Friday into Saturday - ? In late May!

3. There have been several family health issues lately (the kind that involve hospital trips, for both our families). The latest was my mom taking my dad to the ER on Monday and now he is having outpatient surgery tomorrow. I'm kind of worried even though it's not a major surgery but... the older I get, the more freaked out and worried about this stuff I've become. I'm much more aware of just how short life is.

4. In the past couple of weeks I've read:

I still have a pile of 4 library books to read plus 2 more ready for pick up. Looks like there's still a lot of reading in my near future.

5. This weekend is Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer. We're celebrating by hosting a gathering with friends. I'm not yet sure of the complete menu, but I think we've decided on pork, smoked and grilled.

6. The weekend also means it's time to transplant the herbs and veggies into their big pots/garden spots and plant the petunias as well. I wish some of our herbs were bigger but the ones from last year have revived nicely:
The rosemary and chives made it through the winter and look great. Last weekend we used a bunch of chives on the baked potatoes.
7. The pea shoots SP planted this spring are growing nicely. SP hopes to harvest them this weekend and then plant tomatoes in the box.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Vacation Lunch Time: Frisco Sandwich ~ Gibby's ~ Poor Richard's

Sometimes finding a place to get lunch is the hardest part of vacation. We never know exactly where we'll be when hunger strikes. Since neither of us much likes the usual fast food places, and since sometimes our sight-seeing takes us to some deserted areas (like a day trip from Portland to Mt. St. Helens, or a day driving from Las Vegas to Death Valley), I try to plan a rough schedule of activities for a day of vacation and then research lunch options in what looks like a lunch time area. We always take a bag full of snacks because sometimes, you just can't find a lunch place (like in the middle of driving around Death Valley, or on a volcano). This trip, we toted our food bag of goldfish crackers, club crackers, pretzels, Pringles, Snickers, Wheat Thins, Milanos, and Smarties everywhere. 

Sometimes there's fruit, too. 

Snacks only stave off hunger for so long. Fortunately there's Yelp. I'm very bad at contributing reviews to Yelp (I much prefer linking my blog posts like at Urbanspoon rather than writing the blog post again on Yelp's site) BUT we have found the Yelp app incredibly useful when on the road.

For instance, our first day of vacation, we headed from Corolla down to Hatteras, stopping at places along the way (like Bodie Lighthouse). Just before we got to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, we decided we were hungry. I had not marked any lunch places on our map, so we pulled up Yelp and discovered this place, just 11 minutes down the road from where the car was:
Frisco Sandwich Company. It got good reviews, and who doesn't like a dancing pickle?
We pulled up the menu on our phones, chose our sandwiches, SP went in to order, and we ate in the car. We chose the same sandwich:
TBC (smoked turkey, bacon, cheddar, lettuce, tomato, ranch on white (me) or wheat (SP)). The sandwiches were excellent. The potato chips were amazing! Super thin and crispy and a light seasoning. We couldn't stop eating them.
Definitely a great lunch choice if you're near the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
Frisco Sandwich Company on Urbanspoon

The day that we were driving from Fort Fisher to Carolina Beach, we had to quickly find lunch around 2 pm (we were starving despite eating a bunch of pretzels and crackers at the beach near Fort Fisher) and used Yelp to find this place:
Gibby's Dock & Dine. Sadly, after choosing this place, we discovered there are 2 entries for this place on Yelp, one with an average rating around 4 (the entry we saw) and the other rating around 3 (the entry we didn't see). When we went in, we were a little unsure if we should stay. It was seat yourself and we had to choose between going left or right, we had no idea of the difference, an employee said either was fine, we chose right and entered what seemed to be the bar area. There were a few people here and there but we felt really out of sorts. Kind of like intruders. Another employee suggested the dining room to the left, so we went there. We were the only ones there and waited a long time for a server. It was kind of creepy.
SP chose the Seafood Chowder Classic. It was very thick but had lots of potatoes, bacon, clams, crab, and shrimp. It's not my kind of soup but SP really liked it.
He also chose the House Salad and was happy to see mixed greens, not iceberg. Fortunately, after soup & salad, he had room left in his tummy to help me finish my lunch:
The Intracoastal Club. It was HUGE. I chose white instead of wheat or rye bread and turkey instead of ham or roast beef. I asked for cheese (cheddar) and mayo on the side. My side: sweet potato fries. The fries were pretty darn tasty and had a bit of cinnamon sugar sprinkled on them. I'd never had slightly sweet and cinnamony sweet potato fries before and it was a nice change of pace. My sandwich was good. The turkey was just OK but there was lots of it, and lots of bacon, lettuce, and tomato.

The menu also lists a sandwich option, The Gibby, which includes fries and cole slaw on the sandwich and under appetizers there is a Pittsburgh Pepper option. We asked our server if the owner is from Pittsburgh and he said yes. I will say that our server, once he found us at a table in need of service, was quite friendly and accommodating. Not only did he talk to us about the owner being from Pittsburgh but he also told us a lot about the new boardwalk and about the owner's new restaurant just a block or so away.

A good choice if you're in the area and need lunch just beware these are Pittsburgh sized portions! And beware of the slow service.
Gibby's Dock & Dine on Urbanspoon

The day that we were near Manteo, Fort Raleigh, and the Elizabethan Gardens, we snacked until around 2:30 and then found this place: Poor Richard's Sandwich Shop. The menu is on a chalkboard along the left wall as you enter. You order at a counter then take a seat and they bring your food. When we went to order, a young girl behind the counter told us they were closed, but then an older guy (owner? manager?) corrected her and said, no, they were still open. ? I think because we were there about 10-15 minutes before they closed on a Sunday and because they were starting to clean up and because the young girl wanted to be done with her work day, she tried to turn us away and got caught by the guy in charge.

We shared a Grilled Pimento Cheese on wheat and chips. The cheese was so melty and gooey it kept sliding off the sandwich and we ended up using the chips to scoop up the cheese that oozed onto the plate. Truthfully, I was disappointed. It didn't really seem worth the cost. To be fair, it was just before closing, but... The pimento cheese was tasty but I thought the bread could have and should have been better (it seemed just like store bought squishy loaf bread). There was a nice deck in the back where we ate and looked at the Manteo Waterfront. But aside from the older guy who told us to stay and showed us out to the deck, the employees were pretty unwelcoming. We felt uncomfortable the whole time we were there.
Poor Richard's Sandwich Shop on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

22 North (Wrightsville Beach, NC)

We were away for 10 days. Before vacation, we didn't do any blog-worthy cooking. Since we got home, we haven't done anything blog-worthy either. So the next week or so will be a bunch of posts about what we ate on vacation. One of our favorite meals on vacation was at Wrightsville Beach in NC at a place called 22 North.
The menu changes frequently, so the current offerings are printed on a chalkboard menu. The nice thing is that the chalkboard is on an easel and our server brought it over right next to our table. No squinting or contorting to see the menu from afar! I ordered a glass of wine and SP had iced tea while we thought about what to order and our server checked on garlic. Here's what we ate:
First up was a bread basket: blueberry muffin (delicious), cornbread (SP's favorite) and an herb biscuit, which I didn't try but SP said was tasty.
I ate most of my salad before I remembered to take a photo
Mixed greens salad with strawberries, goat cheese, and candied walnuts. The dressing was a creamy garlic, but our server gave the dressing to SP on the side, and brought me small bottles of balsamic and olive oil. Really good salad. 
Bacon Wrapped Scallops with rice and mango-red pepper. Nicely cooked large scallops.
I ordered the Shrimp & Grits which came with a corn-red pepper maque choux. Our server told me there was garlic in the polenta and maque choux but that it had been cooked for a while, it wasn't raw or tossed in right before serving, so I figured I'd be OK (I was). I think she also said the shrimp are cooked in the maque choux. It was delicious. The grits were really good, creamy and if I remember correctly a hint of bacon taste. I don't really like corn, so I tried to push it off to the side, but the red pepper was tasty and added a nice flavor to the grits and shrimp. 
 SP got the King Mackerel. Served with rice and some veggies and a sauce.
For dessert we shared a slice of Chess Pie and a scoop of locally made cappuccino gelato that had a bit of a crunch to it.
We both were very pleased with the food and the service. Our server was absolutely fantastic with checking on garlic and other ingredients and she did it cheerfully. She was laid back but also attentive. We'd definitely go back if/when we make it back to the area.

22 North on Urbanspoon