presidential chicken

as you all know, i’m almost always up for trying a new recipe, and a few weeks ago was one of those nights.  my inspiration was from my dear friend jamie and his fiance caleb.  they have been dabbling in the podcast world and have multiple times mentioned the famous presidential chicken recipe from michigan state university, which is where jamie attended college.  after hearing them describe it as chicken with puff pastry, sour cream, and cream cheese, i demanded a copy of the recipe so that i could try it myself.

so, being the obliging podcast hosts they are, they sent me a link and off i went to kroger to get everything we would need.  as i took over the kitchen with pots and pans and knives and cutting boards, phillip walked in and asked, “what are you making?”

“presidential chicken!” i replied, as if he should have known all along.

he politely said “okay” and left me to my work.

making the stuffing was no big deal, but trying to get the puff pastry looking all nice and on purpose was not as successful.  i may have even ended up with some precious little mini pouches, over there, on the right…oh well!

while these bad boys baked away in the oven, i got to start on the sauce.  now, as i started on the sauce, i found myself confused.  my sauce was not thickening up at all and, with a taste here and there, was quite bland to me.  i double-checked the directions and was doing everything right, but perhaps there’s an msu trick to getting it to thicken properly.  i’ll just have to let one of you show me how it’s done!

eventually the puffs were baked to near-golden perfection.  ah, who doesn’t love a nicely browned, flaky pastry crust?

i plated the chicken up with some broccoli and a little bit of the sauce, but honestly, my sauce wasn’t even necessary (and promptly wound up going down the drain).  those heavenly pouches can stand on their own with piping hot chicken and a creamy, rich sour cream and cream cheese mixture.  this dish is easily one i can see us enjoying time and time again.  🙂

so, if you enjoyed this post, there are two things you need to do:

  1. go get the recipe and enjoy this dish yourself
  2. go listen to jamie and caleb’s podcast

for both, you’ll thank me later.

the wedding chronicles | decision #21

THE FOOD

Hello, all!  It’s Kelsey’s dad again, back to share with you thoughts of the recent menu tasting for Kelsey and Phillip’s upcoming wedding.

First of all let me start with this:  I was honored and flattered to be invited to this event.  Since Kelsey is my only daughter I have never been to a wedding  menu tasting before.  As such I had no idea what to expect.  From my position, though, everything turned out terrifically!

Setting the Stage

As you might know, the wedding is going to be in Peachtree City, GA.  There were three of us at the tasting, Kelsey, Phillip, and me.  Prior to the actual tasting I suggested that the two of them “narrow the field” of what we would be trying, and for the sake of this post I am going to focus on the entree options.  At the beginning I believe there were approximately 20 entree options.  This is way too many options for me!  Kelsey and Phillip narrowed the entree options down to six.  Thank you, both!  Phillip designed, printed, and brought “score sheets” for us to rank the entree options.  Thank you, Phillip.  This helped me greatly to focus and stay on course.  Jena at the Manor, for lack of a better description, runs the Manor.  Jena’s dad owns the Manor.  She was at the tasting and provided descriptions of each dish, sharing various dining etiquette protocol, for example, for each sample.  Thank you, Jena.  However, I have been sworn to secrecy and will not share any specific details for any menu items you will enjoy at the reception.

Entree Tasting

Jena brought out and shared ingredient information about each entree option.  She also shared the preparation details for each.  This was very, very helpful.

My Role

I saw my role as a sort of “tie-breaker.”  If Kelsey and Phillip were tied on an entree, then and only then would I share my vote, comments, etc…In my opinion, the menu selections were ultimately Kelsey and Phillip’s decisions.  The only point that I would have stepped forward on was the type of entree selection.  I thought options would be a good idea.  I would have said “no” to two chicken entrees.  I would have said “no” to two meat entrees, etc…As it finished, Kelsey and Phillip decided on two different types of entrees, and you will love them both!

Suggestions

I have never been part of a wedding menu tasting, so I learned a lot.  Jena had a great sense of humor that really, really helped.  If you are planning or have scheduled a wedding menu tasting I would STRONGLY suggest the following, which Kelsey and I have talked about on many occasions:  INVITE/TAKE THE FEWEST NUMBER OF PEOPLE POSSIBLE.  You don’t want an entire posse with you for the menu tasting.  The bride and groom are under enough pressure already and do not need 10 different tasting opinions to muddy the decision-making process.  The fewer people the better.  My suggestion would be the bride, groom, and father of the bride.  🙂

Speaking of father of the bride…Jena, bless her heart, during the tasting mentioned that on the wedding day the father of the bride (that would be me) “is a celebrity at the event.”  Guilty as charged, this is the last thing I needed to hear!  Kelsey has already given me very strict instructions as to what to say, what not to say, etc…And even though I will have a microphone at the wedding, I promised Kelsey that I would not do anything to offend or embarrass her.

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed the menu tasting and hope that this blog helps you if you are invited to a wedding menu tasting.

The Adventures of Kiwi Kyle | Part 3

One of if not the most important activities I plan for when traveling is eating!  What is <insert name of destination> best known for?  Where do the locals go?  Most of the time you can find those places via a quick online search, but sometimes you find them just by looking around and keeping your eyes open.  I’ve found a couple places like that in Christchurch, so here are my recommendations for future travelers!

First things first, breakfast, the most important meal of the day.  Unfortunately it’s not a meal I usually have while traveling for work because I’m so focused on getting to the client site.  A quick run to the local ‘bucks is usually all I have time for.  However, since this trip has me staying over weekends, I have ample opportunity to enjoy breakfast, and I found a good spot to do so at Tap N Grind.  While busy, it didn’t have the hustle and bustle, get-out-of-my-way-I-just-want-my-coffee feel to it.  Much more relaxed and casual.  My desire for my Waffle House Peachtree Road Race waffle must have been sending me subliminal messages, as I spotted the waffle and bacon and decided that was the dish for me.  As you can see, it looked awesome and it also tasted awesome.  The waffle was crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.  The citrus mascarpone acted like butter to make the waffle soft but not soggy.  The caramelized banana gave it that little something extra and the variety of nuts a little crunch.  It was so good that I made a point to tell the waitress, who sheepishly said, “We just assume everything in America is better than what we have here.”  I told her she was dead wrong on this; it was hands down the best waffle I have ever had, and even in the top three as far as breakfast dishes go!  When I went back the next week, I had the same waitress and she smiled and asked if I would be having the waffle again, which, of course, I did!

For dinner, I recommend you check out O.G.B. (aka Old Government Building), as it hosted various government departments from 1913 to the 1980s.  After being vacant for some time, the building was threatened to be demolished but eventually made it to a real estate developer.  Today, the bar and Heritage Hotel call this place home.  They have a traditional restaurant space with the bar being in a separate area.  Eating in the bar is the way to go with a speakeasy feel consisting of a wood bar, dark colored walls, and the staff being dressed in 1920s and 1930s attire.  I had the beef rib burger, but just to be clear, we would call this a sandwich in the States.  In New Zealand they call a burger anything where protein (beef, lamb, chicken, etc…) is served between two pieces of bread.  The protein doesn’t even necessarily have to be formed into the traditional patty shape.  To flip it the other way, what we call a pulled pork sandwich, a Kiwi would call a pork burger.  Enough on semantics and onto the food!

The “burger” was cooked very well and had this molasses-like sauce that put it over the top.  It was paired with potato wedges and a house-made ketchup that tasted much more tomato based than American ketchup and, to be honest, tasted better than American ketchup.  The final reason you should go to O.G.B.?  Well, any place that uses a sousaphone as part of its decor is well worth the trip!

hattie b’s hot chicken – birmingham, al

this past weekend, phillip and i made a swift drive west to visit my parents in birmingham for a couple of days.  it was a belated birthday celebration for my father as well as an early valentine’s day gathering for all four of us.

my mom was occupied at the school for a show choir event all day saturday, so phillip and i helped my dad run errands around town and then take kramer for a lovely afternoon walk over at heardmont park.  this place brings back countless memories of my brothers during the baseball days, and my father and i reminisced as we strolled from field to field.

the day crept into the evening, and i’d say all four of us had worked up quite an appetite for dinner.  so, we all hopped in phillip’s mazda and my dad navigated us to downtown birmingham where we joined the crowd in line at hattie b’s for some hot chicken.

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future son-in-law with his future father-in-law. 🙂

we waited in line for about ten minutes, but it wasn’t so bad since that gave us time to look over the menu.  now, mom and dad have been here before, and both testified that the medium sauce made their heads sweat.  per their recommendation, i then knew that the mild would be the way to go.  in addition to choosing your heat level, you also have several chicken choices.  from breasts to wings to tenders, surely there’s something on this menu that can satisfy.

at seven o’clock on a saturday night, you can probably imagine how busy this place already was.  so, when a table opened up, i sprinted to claim it for us.  as i settled in and took a look around, it was clear by the simple atmosphere and the line out the door that tasty eating was awaiting us.

mom, dad, and phillip arrived with our number and our drinks and we chatted as we waited on our food.  i’m going to guess that they try to make everything fresh to order, because we had plenty of time to discuss wedding plans.  oh, did i mention phillip and i are engaged?  well, if you didn’t know before, you’re in the know now!  🙂  more on all that fun to come later.

in the end, the food was certainly worth the wait.  between the sides and the chicken, there was hardly anything left on our plates!  the pimento cheese mac’n’cheese was creamy with a little kick, the collard greens were well-cooked (and i’d recommend throwing some hot sauce on them to spice things up), and i heard the potato salad, fries, and coleslaw were also delicious.

my mild tenders were, first of all, humongous.  i actually needed help finishing them!  although delicious when dipped in either the honey mustard or bleu cheese, a bite on its own was quite flavorful.  i’m glad i went with the mild because although the heat may not be in-your-face at first, you definitely start feeling it after two or three tenders.  phillip also had the mild tenders and didn’t leave a single bite uneaten.  mom said her southern chicken tenders were wonderful and dad could not get enough of the mild wings he ordered.

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i’d say if i find myself back at hattie b’s (which i’m sure i will) i think i’ll go for the wings.  the tenders are awesome if that’s what you’re in the mood for, but the wings really looked like they might be this restaurant’s specialty.  i also don’t doubt i’d try the potato salad (it looked awesome on my mom’s plate) and i would certainly get an order of the banana pudding.  my mom says it is heavenly, and i don’t think i’ll forgive myself if i forget to get it next time.

the final word!

ladies and gentlemen, i am reporting to you live as the final presidential debate takes place between mr. donald trump and mrs. hillary clinton.  i have once again found myself out of town for this entertaining and informative viewing, this time coming to you direct from west palm beach!  i will admit that splitting my attention between blogging and listening is a bit of a task, but i will do my best.

in response to my previous post about the second presidential debate, my lovely friend courtney replied that i should enjoy the final presidential debate by enjoying chips and guacamole while listening to some billy joel.  well, ask and you shall receive!  as things at my client site wound down, i asked them for a good mexican restaurant recommendation nearby.  after a little mumbling and collaborating, torero’s authentic mexican cuisine was suggested.  only about ten minutes from the office, it was rightly a no-brainer for me.  with google map’s turn-by-turn directions in the background, i let billy joel serenade me along the way.  give me more of that “uptown girl”, i beg you!

anyway!  the breezy atlantic winds were blowing strongly this evening, so i requested a seat outside on the patio.  although the food was delicious (and i’ll get to all of it shortly), the service left much to be desired.  after seating me at my table, i wasn’t waited on for about 15 minutes.  eh, not the best way to start the dinner.  however, i caught up on all my social media feeds and e-mail inboxes so i wasn’t too ruffled about the delay.

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it had been quite a day at the office, and with two more days on-site, i knew it was going to be a busy end of the week.  chips, salsa, and the large house margarita sounded like a bet i couldn’t lose, so that’s just what i started out with for my meal.

i took my time sipping on my beverage and snacking on some chips and eventually ordered, per courtney’s request, some guacamole.  i’ll be honest, the guacamole was less impressive than the salsa.  it’s not that it was bad; i ate the entire plate.  however, it wasn’t anything particularly special.  now, i don’t like to discriminate when it comes to guacamole because, let’s all be real, there’s not much better than avocados really any day of the week so i ate my dip contently.

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as i finished up my appetizers, i asked for an order of the fish tacos because, you know, i was in florida and fish tacos sounded like a good idea.  unfortunately, after taking my order the waitress returned to tell me, much to my dismay, that they did not have fish that night.  well, alrighty then…since i was still in the mood for tacos, i ordered a chorizo taco and, per the waitress’ recommendation, a steak taco.  well, i’ll say that these tacos were the highlight of the meal.  the chorizo wasn’t too spicy but was quite flavorful and the steak taco wasn’t overly filling.  i’d absolutely order these two tacos again, but with so much else on the menu, i’m sure i’d try something else if i were to return here to dine.

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so, with the end of this meal and this campaign on the horizon (and i know many of you are awaiting its close), i want to kindly thank everyone for participating in my campaign and debate journey in good fun.  i also want to say how impressed i am with the attention my peers are giving to this election, knowing that the outcome will affect our very near future very soon.  if you’re registered to vote, i encourage you to exercise your american right to make your voice heard.  let’s start the show!

coconut curry shrimp

earlier this week i was looking for an easy weeknight recipe that would satisfy and also provide tasty leftovers for lunch the next day.  well, phillip and i struck gold with a coconut curry shrimp recipe that had been hiding in my recipe book.  to no surprise, it actually originated from fellow food blogger ree drummond, and the unarguable fact that this recipe is delicious should also not be a surprise.

i got done prepping all the ingredients when phillip walked in the door just in time for cooking and assembling.  our walk the moon album was spinning on the record player while he prepared the shrimp and sauce and i finished up the rice and got the table set.

we sat down and dug in, remembering exactly how good this meal is.  phillip was almost speechless between bites!  this recipe is quick, delicious, and filling.  it doesn’t take many scoops of rice and shrimp and sauce to satisfy your taste buds and your hungry stomach.  as usual, i pretty much doubled up on the garlic and the curry because who doesn’t like a little punch at the end of each bite.  also, don’t be afraid to go a bit spicier since the coconut milk will definitely sweeten the dish considerably.  enjoy!

i promise this looked way fancier in my fine china at home.

i promise this looked way fancier in my fine china at home.

vegan week day 5

okay, everyone, i know you all are just on the edge of your seats, waiting to hear how #veganweek wrapped up for phillip and me.  well, to quote barry manilow (and honor his beagle named bagel), i’ll just say that “it looks like we made it.”  somehow, some way, we made it through #veganweek.

did i like all the food we ate during #veganweek?  yes, and most of it i would absolutely make it again.  the hard part about it all is that i know how delicious some of my favorite foods are, and all week i was denying myself those tasty pleasures.  i wouldn’t say those cravings were overwhelming, but it became a mental game at some point.  just one more day, one more hour, one more moment!  that’s truly what it came down to.

so, friday night arrived and we met up with a bunch of friends at a local tavern called hobnob for dinner.  i’d already taken a look at the menu before we showed up, so i knew there would be a few options.  i started off with the allagash white beer and phillip treated himself to terrapin brewery’s peach brew of the summer season, which was appropriately sweet and refreshing for the hot night outside.

hooray beer!

hooray beer!

as we gabbed and caught up with one another, it was quite a test of will whether or not i would cave in or push through one more meal for #veganweek.  i tried not to let my eyes wander to the other tables that had steaming plates full of what looked like delectable pub food piled high.  by some miracle i stuck to my commitment and ordered the veggie burger while phillip tried the piedmont burger.  now, these burgers looked delicious as the wacky waitress placed them in front of us, but the taste was a different story entirely.  after taking just one bite of the falafel patty (which itself wasn’t too bad), every bite from there on out tasted like falafel.  seriously, it was like there was no distinction of flavor among the different ingredients.  i couldn’t even finish it, which i think says something about the dish but also about my waning excitement for #veganweek.  i wish i could say phillip’s experience was better, but unfortunately it was not.  as the first meal containing meat all week, it was very unsatisfying and underwhelming.  we both even had small stomach aches afterwards!  i guess i shouldn’t be too surprised, but it made it clear to me that this five-day challenge was plenty long.

after our disappointing dinner (everyone else very much liked what they had), we all headed back to kyle and kari’s apartment for a rooftop hangout.  they’re moving later this month to a house (ooh, how adult!), so we had to gather one last time at their place.  i mean, how are we not all going to miss this view?

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we grabbed some benches around the fire pit, got that thing going, and busted out the s’mores supplies.  although it may have been ninety-something degrees out, the classic summer treat s’mores sounded like such a good idea.  and boy were they, especially as the #veganweek ending reward!

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our final celebration for #veganweek came this morning when phillip and i had brunch at the original pancake house.  man, let me tell you, i ate half of the hash and pancake specialty in record time that i got done and didn’t even really remember eating it all!  the pancakes were so fluffy and buttery, and that corned beef hash was from heaven, i swear.  i took the last bite of over-easy egg with extra crispy bacon and said to phillip, “that was insanely good.”  it was the perfect end to an exciting and interesting week.

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so, now that we made it through #vegan week, what are our final thoughts?  well, first off, the thing about eating vegan is that you really have to plan it all out.  you can’t just swing by your local mcdonald’s for a ten pack of nugs.  and you can’t just run into starbucks for your favorite latte or frappuccino.  i think that’s one of the hardest parts.  you also really have to be thoughtful about bringing food with you in case you end up in a hungry situation and won’t have quick access to something that fits your diet.

would i say i felt a physical difference?  probably not, in all honesty.  i still consumed a similar amount of food, it’s just that what i was eating was generally better for me than what i usually have.  phillip said he definitely felt more active and alert, which is something i suppose we all would like during our regular day-to-day.

i think more than anything #veganweek opened my eyes up personally to the fact that if i do want to snack between larger meals, i can do so in a healthy way.  for example, i can enjoy a ripe peach rather than a bag of chips (but don’t expect me to put down the spicy nacho doritos any time soon).

would i try #veganweek again?  probably not.  however, i do have a better understanding of that dietary lifestyle and everything that comes with it.  to those of you who have followed along all week, thank you for tuning in!  i hope our journey was entertaining and inspiring, in some way.  🙂

vegan week day 1 – chickpea night!

well, everyone, phillip and i survived day one of #veganweek – woohoo!  it’s good to start the week off on a high note, and i think we are both optimistic for the next four days.

this morning’s breakfast was cereal and fruit, pretty safe bets (i’d guess) for a quick vegan breakfast.  well, maybe any breakfast for that matter.  anyway!  since we’d been out of town this past weekend, the refrigerator was a bit empty, which meant that we were both on our own for lunch today.  phillip’s office had lunch catered in, and he had a caprese salad sandwich – tasty!  the cheese might have categorized this meal as vegetarian rather than vegan, but still an honorable effort.

i ventured down the street to a fabulous spot called cafe sunflower.  this restaurant just might change your life, no joke!  their pad thai is unbelievable with coconut-peanut sauce, baby corn, and tofu.  oh, and their avocados this time of year are perfectly green and creamy and flavorful; seriously, to die for!  although i probably ate more than i needed to in one sitting, it was worth every bite.  🙂

now, after the work day was done and the laptops were closed, i headed to the local kroger to pick up dinner.  i figured if we were doing this whole vegan thing, we might as well go all the way, so i found a couple mediterranean-inspired dishes in a vegetarian/vegan cookbook hiding in my cupboard.  and, while we’re talking about this cookbook, i honestly have not the slightest clue as to how it came into my possession.  i can nearly guarantee i didn’t purchase it myself, but don’t we all buy things with the best of intentions that sometimes end up otherwise…?  oh good, it’s not just me.

as i was placing my items on the checkout belt, i couldn’t help but realize this trip to the store was probably the healthiest i’d ever made and, by no coincidence, one of the more expensive ones.  it’s an interesting phenomenon that the cheaper food can tend to be bad for you while you must pay more for something better.  now, i will say that a few of the items i had to buy to make dinner are infrequent purchases that once they’re in the cupboard, i’m set for a while.  i guess i’ll just look at it from that perspective…!

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i hustled home, threw down the groceries, changed into something comfortable, and got to work!  on the menu was homemade red pepper hummus followed by quinoa and pistachio salad with moroccan pesto.  noms!  i very much enjoyed making the hummus because i got to do something i’ve never done in the kitchen:  roast and peel peppers!  for some reason, it was actually quite fun.  please don’t ask why.  there’s just something satisfying about blistering the skin of a pepper, peeling it off, and then crushing it in a blender to make something tasty.  now, i’ve never made my own hummus, but i will easily say that this recipe needed more liquid.  my pint-sized food processor had a hard time blending the chickpeas and peppers all together, so the bottle of olive oil i keep on the top shelf came in very handy.  although it probably could have used a heavy swig more, the hummus still was very tasty.  the coarse texture made us smile because we knew it was homemade.  only critique?  more garlic!

as for the main course, the quinoa salad was a hit!  despite the fact that i accidentally put the roasted peppers in the cilantro sauce instead of chopping them up, the flavor was still impeccable.  the chickpeas gave the dish a nice little “crunch” along with the pistachios.  and the best part?  we didn’t even have to eat a whole bowl of it to be full!  guess that’s what happens when you eat the right stuff.  😉

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with plenty of leftovers for lunch tomorrow, i’d say we’re on the right track.  and with blog recommendations from you all that will more than likely turn into another meal one night this week, i’m excited!

on a somewhat related note, here are pictures of the amazing food phillip and i had at the lindley park filling station when we visited our friends mary and mike last week in greensboro.  those fried green tomatoes, sweet potato chips, and hot dogs were a great binge before this cleansing week!

and, because i like you guys so much, here’s a few more fun ones from our little weekend getaway.  love it!

ponce city market & botiwalla – atlanta, ga

hello, fellow food lovers!  this post comes direct to you from the urban vibe of ponce city market!  the group was well overdue for a new restaurant night, so kyle helped us decide on pcm.  with stores and restaurants galore, it was the perfect spot for our tuesday night get-together.

phillip, kyle, kari, bank, and i all met up at the corner of ponce and glen iris to explore the wildly popular ponce city market that has basically exploded and become a local atlanta favorite, all within the past year or so.  i’ve been to the chelsea market in new york city and krog street market here in atlanta, but ponce city market took me by surprise.  i think it’s because it was my first time and i really had no idea what to expect.  this monstrous construction, though, is a feast for the eyes as much as it is for your appetite (and your wallet).

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pcm is floor after floor of atlanta’s finest shops (think west elm, anthropologie, binders) as well as up-and-coming restaurants trying to make a name for themselves.  there’s the main food hall that hosts most of the eateries, but if you take the spiral stairs up a level, you’ll find a fancy steak house and even more space just waiting to be claimed and developed.

pcm was bustling for a tuesday night, and considering the massive parking deck they have underneath it all, i can only imagine the chaos that ensues on the weekends.  ask any local and they’ll tell you the same, that when new things crop up in our city, we are all too eager to get a first glimpse and immediately make it our new favorite place.  it’s true!

the five of us took a stroll around to check out our options.  many of the restaurants have dining tables available, but like krog, you can order and then take your meal to a common eating space in the middle of it all.  it doesn’t have large, cafeteria-style seating like krog, but they’ve set it up so that everyone in your group can easily order from whatever place they like and still get to eat and enjoy the food and atmosphere together.

without any real direction, bank suggested we try botiwalla the indian street grill.  botiwalla is the latest adventure by the chai pani restaurant group out of asheville, nc.  chai pani has several different established endeavors, including their mg road bar & lounge and buxton hall barbecue.  and, if you want a taste of chai pani without having to travel out of state, you can find them right in downtown decatur.

well, with nothing else spinning our spurs that night, we all were in agreement.  indian street fare it would be!  time to eat!

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