Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Silver Obsession

I always hear about people scoring various items at shockingly low prices on/at Craigslist, flea markets, estate sales, garage sales, etc., but I had yet to find a truly fantastic deal for myself.  Last weekend, I experienced my own 'score' moment when I found a listing for some silver-plated serving pieces on Craigslist.  I have always loved fine things and as I've gotten older, I have come to appreciate fine china, crystal and silver.  My grandmother always set a beautiful table and my mother and aunts all have fine tableware, so I can pinpoint the influence.

So many brides don't even register for china or crystal these days and I understand why.  Fine things take special care, compounded with the fact that they are rarely used.  Me, I couldn't wait to select china and crystal for my bridal registry!  I absolutely love to entertain in style and truly believe we should use our beautiful pieces as often as possible.  If a piece breaks while in use, c'est la vie.  Nice things are meant to be enjoyed.

Back to my amazing find.  I have a love affair with silver holloware and flatware and snapped up these beauties right away off of Craigslist - for $10 a piece!

The pieces are all made by Reed & Barton, a manufacturer of quality silver/holloware.

This is my favorite piece!  You may not be able to tell from the photo, but it is HUGE!  I can't wait to use it at my next party.  I found the same tray on ebay for $200-300 and I paid just $10.  Now I've caught the bug and am scouring multiple sources for similar 'good deals'.  Wish me luck!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Culinaria Restaurant Week

You may be able to tell from previous posts that I am a lover of both food and drink.  I love sampling new restaurants and trying out a celebrity chef's various recipes.  I had heard about Culinaria in San Antonio, but had yet to get involved.  Culinaria is a sort of 'foodie' movement that coordinates events throughout the year for people who LOVE to try new cuisine and celebrate the art of cookery.  One of the events coordinated by Culinaria is Restaurant Week.  During Restaurant Week, participating restaurants create special lunch and dinner menus for $15 and $35 per person, respectively.  Most of the menus include three to four courses of the chef's selection and are offered at a much lower price than usual.  I was determined to participate this year, since I have forgotten to in years past.

My first foray was lunch at The Palm - downtown, to celebrate my boss' birthday.  About six of us gathered for the occasion and we all had a great, long lunch - with the approval of the boss, of course!  The Palm's Restaurant Week menu was quite appealing.  I liked almost all of the options, so it was difficult to decide which to choose.  I decided to go for the Chef's Soup of the Day for the first course, which was a seafood chowder and the Atlantic Salmon Filet for the main course.  Almost everyone at the table chose the same with the exception of one person!  We all agreed both courses were delicious and I particularly enjoyed the Carrot Cake we ordered for the table (cost additional to the $15 menu).  This was my first time at The Palm, as I have heard mixed reviews about it, and although I had seafood and not a steak, I would happily return for dinner.

On Friday night, DH and I headed for Tost on the recommendation of my friend, Ariane, who had dined there earlier in the week.  As soon as I heard it was French, I knew I had to try it out.  I am always looking for good French restaurants, which seem to be difficult to find as well as sustain here in San Antonio.

As soon as DH and I walked inside Tost, I immediately liked the atmosphere with its dim lights and modern, yet comfortable dining room.  Being the cocktail ambassadors that we are, we began with the basics: an Old Fashioned for DH and a Dirty Martini por moi.

Next, we examined the menu and wanted to try almost everything listed!  The Tost Restaurant Week Menu  had some tempting options that made it difficult for DH and I.  We finally agreed to order different items so we could taste as much as possible.  Another addition to our dinner we couldn't resist ordering: Truffled Fries with parmesan and aioli.

DH declared that these were the best fries he'd ever eaten saying, "Put that in your blog."  I have to agree, they were $7 of amazingly delicious potato genius.

The first course was Grilled Watermelon and Cucumber with Chimichurri Sauce.  To me, this course was just 'ok'.

I don't like cucumber, so I did not eat it, the watermelon and blue cheese were good, but nothing too exciting.

Next, I ordered the Seared Scallops and DH had the Braised Pork Belly.  Both were absolutely yummy.  I just love scallops, so as soon as they were set in front of me, I dug in, so no photo!  DH was so excited for the pork belly and it did not disappoint.

For the main course, I selected the Shrimp & Cheddar Grit Cake.  It was spicy and delicious.  DH had the Braised Beef, which he said reminded him of being at his grandma's house.  Any meal that reminds you of  your grandmother's cooking gets an A+ in my book.

After DH tasted my shrimp, he said he didn't think I'd like the braised beef because it had more of a mild, savory flavor.  However, as soon as I tasted it, I almost wanted to trade him dishes, it was so darn scrumptious.  I wouldn't have been that cruel, but I do remember thinking, "I wish I could make that at home."  I know there are many recipes for this dish, but duplicating the execution is the difficulty.

Although thoroughly satisfied, we still had one more course to go: the Gelato of the Day, which was Carrot Cake.

DH said this tiny scoop was just the right amount, but it was so yum, I could have eaten a whole bowl of it and been sick later.

The only caveat I'd give for Tost is that some of the waitstaff were dressed unprofessionally.  We spent over $100 for the two of us and let's just say for that kind of money as well as the expertise in the execution and presentation of the food,  I would expect a more professionally-attired waitstaff.  Chef, I  would ensure the staff rise to the level of your food...

DH and I both declared Tost as a new favorite restaurant and promised each other that we'd return soon to try more dishes on the menu, especially the risotto of the day!

Monday, August 20, 2012

DH's BBQ & Beer Tasting Bday Party

I took a couple weeks off of blogging because I've been traveling, painting and partying.  More on the traveling and painting later.  Darling Husband (DH) has been working long hours in the hot Texas sun all summer long and I wanted to do something special for him.  He absolutely loves to try out new beers and spends lots of time in the beer section at Central Market while I shop for groceries.  I thought it would be fun to throw him a BBQ & Beer Tasting party for his birthday, wanting to celebrate his adventurous palette.  First, I found a cute invitation on Etsy and had it customized and printed.  I just love the way it turned out.

 I went rustic with the decor, inspired by 'wheat beer'.  DH picked out beers from different countries for the group to try out.

I labeled the drink tubs by the origin of the beer.

I labeled the catch-all bucket "United Nations".  DH spent $12 on a single (large-ish) bottle of Russian beer.  I really couldn't say anything, considering what I spend on handbags.

Inexpensive frame with a simple design and a bit of burlap ribbon.

'House Beer' and iced tea for the less adventurous guests.  A little pail, tied with the burlap ribbon acts as a bottle top collector.

'P' is for DH's last name.

Beer Tasting records, cups and pencils.
  I had originally envisioned that we would all taste the same beers at the same time, but had to let go of my inner-psycho-professional-event-planner and just let the party unfold naturally.  And you know what, everyone still had a great time!

Friend Ariane contemplates whether or not she likes a particular brew.

Three yards of burlap decorate the table for about $6.

We served braised ribs, bbq ribs, beer brats, black bean & corn salad, potato salad and pinto beans.  Everyone loved the food, especially dessert - homemade peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream.  Speaking of homemade, I made about 95% of everything from scratch, which surprised a few guests.  Then, I tried to take credit for making the chicharones - just for fun. ;)

All of our friends and most importantly, DH, had a good time.  I was especially happy that his friend from grade school was able to come and put many smiles on his face throughout the night.  He had lots of fun serving the different beers to his friends and laughed when they really hated a particular variety.  Thank you to everyone for coming to celebrate my honey's birthday.  Happy Birthday, my Darling Husband!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Book, not the kind from your youth

It's no secret that I can get pretty excited about handbags and jewelry.  When I find a particular piece I can't live without, I absolutely obsess over it.  Images of the item will flit in and out of my head throughout the day and I'll attempt to reason with myself over the price/frequency of use/originality at night while trying to go to sleep.  My rule is that if I am still obsessing over the item after a couple of weeks, it's meant to be mine.  I recently came across some obsession-worthy clutches at Kate Spade that have me practically squealing, they are so FAB!

Combining my love of classic novels with my love of handbags - genius.  How adorable is this book clutch?  And it's by Jane Austen, one of my all time favorite writers!

Who doesn't love the tale of these two star crossed lovers?  This Romeo & Juliet Book Clutch by Kate Spade is so romantic and I love the colors!

Another one of my favorite novels, set during the roaring 20's.  Books as fashion accessories is such a cute concept, I'm practically swooning.  Reading is tres chic!

I have read Pride & Prejudice countless times and this little clutch might just be my favorite for that reason.  It could also be because of the dashing Mr. Darcy or the smart-as-a-whip Elizabeth Bennett. I am in love with all of these sweet clutches, so it's a tough choice for this literary babe.  At $325 a bag, these are most definitely a splurge.  You can bet that I'll be monitoring the Kate Spade website and just waiting for a sale!