Hungry hearts and happy bellies!

One of my favorite things to do with my husband is go out to dinner – especially if we’re trying a new place. This is our “us” time – without TVs, phones, dogs, or really any interruptions other than a waitress checking in. He’s definitely more adventurous with the things he’ll eat (rabbit, veal, sea urchin, foie gras…), but I do love exploring new menu options. We made a deal with each other to try at least one new place in Charlotte each month when we found ourselves becoming too routine in going to our “usual places.”  Since we made this commitment (pre-2014), we’ve done a good job of sticking to it. We went to Dandelion Market (Try the surf & turf), 5 Church, Queen City Q (delicious BBQ & smoked wings), and Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar (get the wild mushroom ‘za).We’ve been pleased with all of the experiences thus far.

We started a discussion around our Top 10 list with my in-laws, trying to determine where our favorite meals were created. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

1. Elizabeth’s on 37th (Savannah, GA): the whole experience was charming and the food was delightful!

2. Fearrington House (Pittsboro, NC): Try the hot chocolate soufflé to end your evening. Recently ranked on USA Today for wine list and CN Traveler for best hotel and restaurant, and Open Table’s #8 restaurant in America!

3. Poogan’s Porch (Charleston, SC): You can’t go wrong with fried chicken in the South, with spicy collards on the side of course.

4. Eleven (Pittsburgh, PA): Best pork chop I’ve ever had. And the most adorable/delicious after dinner truffle.

5. Seer Sucker (San Diego, CA): First place I tried fish, and I loved it so much that I eat it on the regular now.

6. Passion8 Bistro (Charlotte, NC): Farm to table and table to full, happy tummy. We have loved every part of every locally sourced dinner at Passion8. Excited to hear about their move to the Elizabeth neighborhood in 2014.

7. Halcyon (Charlotte, NC): As much as we love the food at Halcyon, the drinks are what we really rave about. Their mixologist is insanely creative. I recommend the Southern Grit Bowl if you go for brunch (Geechie Boy Mill Grits. Pork Belly. Pimento. Greens. Poached Egg).

8. The Palisades (Eggleston, VA): This hidden gem is truly surprising in it’s atmosphere and delivery of high quality food. It’s on the outskirts of Blacksburg (Go Hokies!) and provides an eloquent yet rustic dining experience.

9. Sweet Georgia’s Juke Joint (Atlanta, GA): Another delicious Southern meal full of fried goodness, hearty sides and live music. Doesn’t get much better than that!

10. The Fig Tree (Charlotte, NC): Fine dining just outside of uptown Charlotte. Top notch dining experience with to-die-for menu options. The perfect place for a romantic dinner.

This list was harder than I thought to make! We’ve obviously been lucky enough to eat a lot of delicious meals. A few more of my faves are Manna (Wilmington, NC), ONE (Chapel Hill, NC), Divine Prime (Myrtle Beach, NC) best steak I’ve ever had, Toast (Charleston, SC): Go for brunch and get a cucumber bloody mary!, Magnolias (Charleston, SC), Catch 27 (St. Augustine, FL), CODA (Boston, MA): Try the mussels, Lolitas (Boston, MA): you get tequila on ice upon arrival, Viet Thai Noodle House (Charlotte, NC): try the Pho, Atlantic Fish (Boston, MA): Try the cioppino.

I’d love to hear what some of your favorite restaurants! In addition to trying new places, we plan to continue traveling as much as possible this year and we’d love to check out exciting new food in those destinations. Cheers!

PS – you can friend me on Yelp to see all of my reviews, check ins and delicious photos!

Showered with Love

This past weekend, my cousins (pictured below) threw me an amazingly beautiful bridal shower. I was completely blown away by not only the food and decor, but also by how much love I felt! This is going to be a picture heavy post – so get ready!
blogcousinsblogcousins2The whole day was utterly perfect. I could not have asked for a more gorgeous day, or for better time spent with family. The decorations and food were incredible.
blogcandyblognapkinblogdrinksblogdecorationblogcupcakeblogfoodblogbbqblogdecorblogrecipeblogrecipeboxWe got so many amazing gifts, I don’t think we could possibly pick a favorite! We got the china we registered for, beautiful wine glasses, cast-iron skillets, a dozen and a half kitchen utensils, and…. A KITCHEN AID STAND MIXER!  I think my jaw hit the floor when I opened that gift. We cleared spaced immediately on our kitchen counter and put this baby up there. blogmixerGames were involved too! And I got a pretty pink & green ikat print apron out of it (along with all of the utensils). I have enough aprons to last me a lifetime now!

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We are so completely overwhelmed with the big, generous hearts of our families throughout our engagement. We knew we were lucky, but everyone has gone above and beyond with us in this time and we are so, so grateful.

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And to top off the weekend, I got to see the world’s best Paw Paw on Father’s Day weekend and get some more of those hugs that I treasure so much. We also got to spend time with my soon to be Father-in-Law in Pittsboro for Father’s Day. A busy, wonderful weekend, full of so much family and so much LOVE.
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Don’t ya wanna eat my cornbread?

The hubby-to-be and I have a joke going about a Dave Matthews Band song and cornbread being at our wedding. I told him if we have it, he has to go around to all the tables offering it up and singing “Don’t ya wanna eat my cornbread?” It’s probably not as funny to you… guess that’s why it’s an inside joke. Regardless, we are having cornbread at our wedding.

We met with our darling caterer yesterday – I loved that she hugged us instead of shaking our hands. We narrowed down our menu and trusted her opinions on what foods were “must-haves.” Now, I’m not going to TELL you everything that we’re having but if you are lucky enough to join us, you’ll see for yourself the delicious spread of southern goodness that will fill our guest’s bellies.

www.tickledred.com
http://www.tickledred.com

I opted out of fried pickles for an appetizer (too greasy + messy) and also out of a shrimp & grits bar. I originally INSISTED on having this because it’s one of my FAVORITE foods (top 5, for sure!). But my Virginia family, although they are in Southwest Virginia, they aren’t quite Southern enough to love grits with the same intensity that I do. Or at all. I’m actually pretty sure they would all turn up their noses at grits. Maybe for a shower or something we can do a shrimp and grits bar… with andouille sausage, cheese, texas pete, bacon, mushrooms, onions… all the fixins!

We will have 3 delicious hor d’ouevres to accompany cocktail hour (with our signature drink!) and two very Southern, very delicious meats, with 4 sides, 3 kinds of bread and dessert… well… dessert is the most important part and I cannot pick just one. So I’m thinking of 5… and we just have to figure out what those 5 are going to be, then we’ll dedicate a whole post to desserts.

Anyway, now that we have picked what we want (well in advance!) – we are going to taste it on March 16th and confirm or change the menu. Y’all, it sounded so good, we were both hungry when we left! Is it August yet?

MMM, MMM GOOD!

Y’all, it’s been a good week! We are still reeling from that spectacular engagement party last weekend, gifts were still trickling in this week (Kate Spade towels + glass mixing bowl set, LOVE!), our save-the-dates arrived last night and look AMAZING, we made a purchase today that is going to raise the level of fun at our wedding from a 12 to 15 (GET READY!), and on top of that – it might snow tonight! Doesn’t get much better than that!

But NEXT week, we are meeting with the caterer… whose name is Evelyn and I LOVE that because it was my grandma’s name. If I could have it my way, we’d bring in Mac’s BBQ for the reception, with chicken wings and fried pickles for appetizers and collards, mac & cheese and baked beans for sides – unfortunately, the deal they have worked out with the caterer works better if we use THEIR choice.Pinned Image
I knew this would be the part of deal when we signed our contract – and either way the food will be delicious, even if it isn’t Mac’s. We LOVE us some Southern food, and comfort foods too. I think our biggest decision will be between biscuits or cornbread. I actually see it as a blessing that they have a deal with a caterer, so that we don’t have to go out and search for our own. As much as I love food, and would enjoy food tastings, I am happy to clean anything off of my plate that will simultaneously remove stress.

We’ve had some really good food at weddings… carving stations, jumbo shrimp, and the 5-course wedding in Cleveland that we still talk about! I love food so much that I’d probably have them do one of everything if it wouldn’t cost a fortune!

More to come on the catering after our meeting, this will just be a walk through to see where things will be set up and what we’re envisioning. Food tasting to come next – yum! I would LOVE to hear what you all would pick for the perfect Southern food at a wedding reception! Ready… set… post!

Happy Thursday + fingers crossed for snow!