Alfa Road Trip Day 5: Grady’s Barbecue, North Carolina (EATS)

August 1, 2015 § Leave a comment

This small, scrubbed clean family operation is an hour and 20 minutes from Raleigh and an hour inside the middle of nowhere. It’s run by a wife and husband team, Gerri and Steve Grady. 

We had the chopped pork with two vegetables. The pork is, according to ‘cue experts, an exemplar of eastern North Carolina style ‘cue: chopped fine with bits of skin, which had the texture of well-cooked chicken cartilage (something I think is delectable, for those of us who eat all the animal parts).

When I saw the option of a veggie plate on the menu, I wondered who in the world would come to a barbecue place to order vegetables? But then I ate a spoonful of the butter beans and got it. They’re the best I have ever had, cooked with fatty ham hock, resulting in a creamy, salty concoction I could eat over a bowl of rice.

We also ordered the squash, as it was taped onto the menu, which signaled to me it was a late addition thanks to fresh squash on hand.
The yellow summer squash was caramelized with onions to sweetness and had plenty of black pepper to add a spicy kick. We ended with perfect sweet potato pie. The filling was creamy yet light, bright orange, and just sweet enough. Gerri makes the sides; Steve makes the ‘cue and the pie.
When we went up to the counter window to tell Gerri how delicious everything was — especially those butter beans — she said she’s known around here for her butter beans. She insisted with a smile that we take her business cards, noting she does catering (smart), sign the book (especially when she found out we’d come all the way from NYC), and come back soon. Can’t wait.


Open only 10am-3pm or 4pm depending on the day so plan accordingly

3096 Arrington Bridge Road, Dudley, NC 28333. 919-735-7243

More to the story at the NC BBQ Society

Our First Alfa Road Trip: Eastern Shore, Maryland

July 29, 2015 § 4 Comments

We’ve been wanting to go on a road trip in the 1960 Alfa Romeo that the hubby restored from a rusted shell back in high school. This summer we finally took the plunge in this beauty.

We spent our first two days driving along pretty country roads and relaxing on the eastern shore of Maryland. We visited historic Chestertown, where we saw the hamlet’s oldest house, circa 1739 and owned by Sarah and Esau Watkins. An elderly lady walking her dog called out when she saw us, “I like your hat!” Three minutes later, we saw her again and she said, “I still like your hat.” Friendly folks!

We drove on to the tiny town of St. Michaels, on a claw of land jutting out into the Chesapeake Bay, along the tranquil waters of the Miles River. After a breakfast of a Miles River omelet, stuffed with Maryland lump crab, spinach and tomatoes… 


…we walked the gardens at the Inn at Perry Cabin, observing our insect friends… 


…picking blackberries and admiring the state’s flower (the black eyed susan) and the zinnia garden. 


We lazed about on the lawn and admired the hidden greenhouse…

…before walking to town to eat our five o’clock snack of a wood-fired margherita pizza and rose.

For dinner, we ventured to t at the General Store, where we dined on deliciously charred peaches on arugula with Marcona almonds and blue cheese, Maryland-made sage sausage atop mashed potatoes, and biscotti ice cream made in nearby Oxford with a raspberry tart. We also sampled the t’s teas; Matthew went for Slim and Tone, while I went for chamomile sweetened with local honey. An excellent start to the road trip.

Tonight’s Harvest

July 30, 2014 § Leave a comment

This year was darned cold. Despite growing up outside of Chicago — or perhaps because of that — I have never enjoyed winter. And this past NYC winter was brutal.

Even now, near-August, the days have been cooler than this time last year. The evenings have been downright chilly at times. All this means that my rooftop garden is fruiting much more slowly.

This time last year we had gaggles of cherry and heirloom tomatoes. We lugged a tray of them to Martha’s Vineyard. This year I’ve harvested a pint — total — of cherry tomatoes and the few heirloom tomatoes on the vines are still hard and green.


But we have had gaggles of jalapeños this year…


And tonight I got to harvest three of our first eggplants and use some of our cherry tomatoes, cinnamon basil and lemongrass for a home-grown, home-made Thai green curry with lemongrass-coconut rice. There’s nothing quite like coming home, picking veggies and herbs, and cooking dinner for yourself on a Wednesday…in New York City.



Copenhagen (EATS)

May 11, 2014 § 1 Comment

It’s been an unintentional year-long blogging hiatus. It was a year of experimenting with rooftop gardening in NYC — you can grow a heck of a lot on a rooftop. I’ll share more about that this season.

I decided to relaunch Together In Food with delicious eats we experienced on our trip to Copenhagen to visit my little brother, who’s studying abroad in the same program my husband did 15 years ago.

Nearly a decade after my first trip to Denmark, we were delighted to find that Copenhagen’s food scene has improved dramatically. On our last trip, we subsisted on Carlsberg beer, Fanta soda, and their admittedly delicious hot dogs with spicy mustard. This time, it was a whole new world. And that world began with Noma, the #1 restaurant globally.

Noma setting

We had 20 courses crafted from ingredients grown or foraged in Scandanavia. A sampling of the most unusual (clockwise from upper left): the “Nordic coconut” with nearly meat-like warm beet broth sipped through a straw; fried moss with creme fraiche; a beautiful hen egg with foraged herbs, fiddlehead ferns and flowers; an apple cooked for 12 hours in sloe berries; and new elm seeds with yeast sauce.

Noma food

But the strangest experience was this:

Noma ants

You may have looked twice. I did. But yep, those are ants. As there’s no citrus in Scandanavia, a Brazilian chef dispatched his knowledge to the Noma team that ants impart a lemony burst. So the cooks traipse through the forest to forage ants, then they rub ’em with salt and adorn your dish with them. I have to admit, they were surprisingly citrusy and delicious.

Noma’s service, atmosphere, and experience definitely made the 4.5 hours and dollar amount I don’t want to think about at the moment worth it. But honestly, the best meal we had was at Amass, located in the middle of nowhere and run by a Noma alum who was also a chef at Per Se in NYC and hails from San Diego.

We loved the graffiti art, the use of our favorite glassware, the open kitchen..


…and the straightforward set menu that was more California in its cooking style: high quality ingredients, preparations that helped those ingredients shine, and lovely yet not highly constructed presentation. We sampled (clockwise from upper left) sour pancakes with foraged herbs, fermented potato flatbread, salad gathered from the garden out back, and monkfish.

Amass food

Of course, we tasted more basic aspects of Copenhagen cuisine. We trekked to Torvehallerne Food Market, where we tried Coffee Collective (laughing that they had a very Blue Bottle-like approach); delicate, perfumey local strawberries and peas that tasted like spring; and ice cream cones as big as our heads.

Torvehallerne Market

We had the classic Danish smorrebrod, freshened up by a shop called Aamaans. The best were the avocado and the sirloin with fried onions.


And it wouldn’t be a trip to Copenhagen without sampling classic fare: a traditional Danish meal at my brother’s host family’s lovely home (apples with jam, cabbage, potatoes and roast pork); toasted malt at the Carlsberg factory tour; those famous hot dogs; and a new discovery, sea buckthorn berry tart at an excellent seafood restaurant, Kodbyens Fiskebar.

Danish delicacies

Truth and Beauty

May 5, 2013 § 3 Comments

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”-Anais Nin

I’m writing to recall the atypical heat and sun of early May in San Francisco. To remember the bright flowers that reached for the rays, and the early blueberries forming.


To see the arugula and red lettuce that self-seeded from last year and have pushed their way through the dirt again.


To see skinny asparagus forests populate our vegetable bed when no one is around to cut and eat the young spears.


While I miss California, having to be away for a month or more at a time has allowed me to find something new in the garden each time I return. Two and a half years ago, I wrote about artichokes. With our garden renovation and our move to NYC, I didn’t have time to plant artichokes until this past winter. But five months later, the plants have produced a fountain of silvery foliage. On this last trip west, a deep purple artichoke was emerging. And I realized in that moment of finding what “truth and beauty” means — that true beauty, the kind that delights, is often unexpectedly discovered.


How to Make a Bulgur Chard Mash-up (RECIPE)

January 2, 2013 § 2 Comments

I can’t believe that I’m about to reference the movie Pitch Perfect while discussing cooking, but here goes. Last night, I watched this perfectly “popcorn for the brain” flick. The movie’s main character, Beca, likes to make electronic music, and she takes her penchant for mash-ups to a college acapella group that she’s somehow strong-armed into joining. She takes a bass line from one song, a melody from another, lyrics from another and puts them together in surprising but harmonious ways.

As I was figuring out what to do with the container of bulgur wheat that I accidentally cooked (rather than soaked) two days ago, the large bag of chard in my fridge, and not much else in the way of dinner ingredients, this idea of mash-ups came back to me.

So I did it to the bulgur and the chard.

I took the idea of Indian flavor pastes and  made a simple one out of minced cipollini onions and garlic, a generous squirt of tomato paste, cumin, cayenne and salt. I added collard greens, which I learned to slice into thin ribbons and saute in olive oil from a South American recipe, maintaining their fresh green flavor rather than cooking them to a pulp as you often see. I stirred in the cooked bulgur like I might when making fried rice (or rather, when my husband does, as that’s his specialty). And then I topped the whole lovely mess with toasted walnuts, which I got from a vegan cooking website.

And it was a heck of a lot tastier than I expected. A pleasant surprise for a Wednesday night dinner. Happy new year!

Bulgur chard mash-up

Bulgur chard mash-up



Yields: 2 servings


2 cipollini onions, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 T tomato paste
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. salt
1 bunch chard leaves. Clean them, cut the leaves off either side of the stem, roll the leaf halves together tightly and slice into 1/8-inch ribbons
1/2 cup cooked bulgur wheat
1/4 cup toasted walnuts (you can toast them in the

Cooking Instructions

1 — Heat frying pan with high sides on medium heat. Toast the walnuts for a few minutes, then set aside.
2 — Add olive oil to the pan. Cook onions until softened, then add garlic and cook for a minute or two.
3 — Add tomato paste, cumin, cayenne and salt. Stir and cook into a flavorful paste.
4 — Add the chard leaves a handful at a time, stirring each batch to coat all leaves in the oil and cooking paste. Put all the leaves into the pan. Cook for a few minutes until the leaves are tender.
5 — Add the cooked bulgur, breaking up any lumps and mixing well so that the chard and bulgur come together. Cook until the flavors meld. Add salt to taste.
6 — Serve in a bowl topped with toasted walnuts.
7 — Feel virtuous because you’re eating a nutritious vegan meal that actually tastes good!

Thanksgiving Redux

November 25, 2012 § 2 Comments

Two years ago, we hosted Thanksgiving for nine of our family members, plus the two of us. I photo-logged our experience here — everything from having to clean the turkey in the bathroom sink to grilling leek bread pudding due to a lack of oven height. We experimented with a lot of recipes. I started five days in advance and cooked way too much food.

It was a good feast overall, and it was rewarding to host. But as it was my first time, I was kind of stressed, and some parts didn’t turn out so great (while the grill imparted a nice smoky flavor to the leek bread pudding, it also made the bottom and sides way too crunchy).

This year, we did a redux. And it was awesome.

Our harvest table.

It was awesome because our NYC apartment renovations were completed just in time, the day before. After a long 14 months of living in a temporary apartment, and even a few hotels, and eating out nearly all the time, it felt glorious to be HOME. To smell turkey roasting, to have a pie cooling on the counter, to drink wine while chatting with family and listening to jazz…all in our own place, candles lit and a fire burning.

One of our first purchases for the new apartment.

It was also awesome because while I haven’t cooked Thanksgiving dinner enough times to have experienced the magic of habit-forming, there was a flow to it. While I wrote out a menu and plan last time, this year, I just went with it. We also invited my brother Paul and his girlfriend Stephanie F to help. (Note to self: two different dressings are easier to make when you have helpers dicing all the onions and celery.)

Good dicers.

Stephanie F fortified us with a deliciously spicy salsa fresca.

Stephanie F’s salsa.

We made a cornbread, bacon and kale dressing…

Cornbread dressing makings…including bacon fried in butter.

…along with a traditional Thanksgiving dressing with challah from Amy’s Bread, fresh herbs, Cortland apples and chestnuts.

Matt’s favorite dressing.

After letting it rest for an hour, Matt carved the heritage turkey.

Look at those deft carving hands! They say the turkey’s done when the leg moves freely.

The 48-hour dry aging in the fridge under a salt crust, and the long rest, allowed the turkey to reabsorb its juices, making it one moist, tasty turkey.

Putting Matt’s family’s silver to work.

We filled our plates…

Matt, Paul and Stephanie in the new kitchen.

…and sat down to eat.

Thanksgiving plate.

Then we ate some more.

Stephanie F’s pumpkin bread — with freshly roasted pumpkin.

Walnut pie: an oldie but goodie.

And this is how we felt.

Happy Thanksgiving!



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