The Weekend Gourmet F

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Weekend Gourmet Flashback: Celebrating National Soup Month with Yucatan Chicken-Lime Soup

January is National Soup Month, so I wanted to share one of my favorite soup recipes with you. I originally shared the recipe for Yucatan Chicken-Lime Soup...aka Sopa de Lima...a couple of years ago. It's so crazy good that I wanted to share it again in honor of National Soup Month. This soup is very similar to chicken-tortilla soup, with a citrusy kick from the addition of lime juice. This recipe is my spin on an Emeril Lagasse recipe, by way of Rick Bayless. I also made a few minor tweaks based on some tricks I learned from a server in Merida, Mexico -- where we first tasted this dish while on vacation a few years ago. 

I use skinless bone-in chicken breast to give a richer chicken flavor to my broth. Second, I add lime juice AND simmer lime halves in the broth for 15 minutes before serving. This allows the lime's citrus oil to infuse a deeper lime flavor. Finally, I add a bit of chihuahua cheese to the top of each bowl before serving -- because a little cheese is never a bad thing! This Yucatan Chicken-Lime Soup is the perfect soup to serve on a chilly Winter day, and it'w also great for any upcoming game-watching parties on your schedule.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Vegolutions with MorningStar Farms®...Featuring Lighter One-Pot Meatless Pasta #ad #CollectiveBias #DailyVegolutions

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #DailyVegolutions #CollectiveBias
Like many of you, I’m making a conscious effort to eat a bit healthier in the new year. One of my goals is to include at least one meatless meal per week. Luckily, MorningStar Farms® offers a convenient line of delicious meatless products that help me meet my Vegolutions – and enjoy great-tasting meals in the process! MorningStar Farms®’s flavorful recipe-ready veggie crumbles are perfect for making healthier versions of your favorite recipes like chili, spaghetti sauce, and tacos. I love that they let me enjoy healthier, meat-free versions of traditional comfort foods! MorningStar Farms® items are convenient and delicious for everyone – not just vegetarians and vegans. Even my meat-loving hubby enjoys eating them! MorningStar Farms® products are a convenient way to help us stay on our healthier lifestyle journey.

I recently went to my local Walmart to pick up packages of MorningStar Farms® Grillers® Crumbles™ and Meal Starters® Steak Strips – along with some Great Value™ frozen chopped spinach -- to create a healthier meatless pasta dish. All three items were easy to locate in the freezer case.
To purchase MorningStar Farms® items to meet your personal Vegolutions plans, be sure to use a special Ibotta to earn yourself some money! Simply buy any three (3) MorningStar Farms® products at Walmart, and you’ll earn $3! This Ibotta offer applies to all MorningStar Farms® products available at Walmart. The offer began on 1/09/2017, and it lasts throughout the month of January.

My Lighter One-Pot Pasta Dinner conveniently cooks in a Dutch oven, and it’s ready to eat in about 45 minutes – making it perfect for a busy weeknight dinner. This pasta features MorningStar Farms® Grillers® Crumbles™ in place of ground beef, chunky organic marinara sauce, high-fiber bowtie pasta, mushrooms, and nutrient-rich Great Value™ spinach. The end result is a hearty pasta dish that’s lower in fat and calories than my typical pasta dinner.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Stirrings Blogger Recipe Challenge...Featuring Sparkling Watermelon-Mint Limeade Cocktail #simplybettercocktails

I was recently invited to take part in the Stirrings first annual Stir It Up Holiday Blogger Mixology Challenge. Stirrings makes a delicious line of super premium cocktail mixers that are made with real juice and no preservatives. These mixers taste great, and they make mixology a snap! They provided me with my choice of two mixers and a cocktail rimmer to create a Simply Better Cocktail. I opted to received Stirrings' Watermelon Martini and Mojito cocktail mixers, along with their Lemon Drop Rimmer for garnish. I used both mixers to create my Sparkling Watermelon-Mint Limeade Cocktail. This refreshing cocktail proves a delicious hint of Summer that can enjoyed year-round. A little sweet...and a little tart...this fizzy cocktail is ready to enjoy in about 5 minutes thanks to convenient ready-to-use Stirrings mixers.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

It's Almost Time for Culinaria's 2017 Winter San Antonio Restaurant Week #SARW

It's a new year...and it's it's time for San Antonio's most highly anticipated culinary event of the Winter season: Culinaria's San Antonio Restaurant Week! This fun, tasty event is taking place January 16-28, and it literally offers something for every kind of food lover! Restaurants all over the city are offering diners special three-course lunch and dinner prix fixe menus. Prices come in two tiers to ensure San Antonio food lovers a range of budget options:
  • Tier 1 Restaurants: $15 lunch and $35 dinner
  • Tier 2 Restaurants: $10 lunch and $25 dinner
If you've never taken part in San Antonio Restaurant Week, this is the perfect year to jump in with both feet! This delicious two-week culinary event is a great way to try a new-to-you restaurant...or dine out at one of the city's best restaurants for a much lower price point. There's truly something from everyone -- from casual family-friendly restaurants to high-end gourmet dining. Be sure to visit the San Antonio Restaurant Week website to check out the mouthwatering menus!

Photo provided by Asado Seafood & Grll
The Weekend Gourmet team is going to be sampling the creative Restaurant Week dinner menus at a duo of Tier 1 restaurants. We'll enjoy traditional American, South American, Caribbean, and delicious rotisserie creations at Bolo’s Rotisserie Grille. We'll also be returning to a favorite restaurant from last year's Restaurant Week: Asado Seafood & GrillWe'll be sharing these dining experiences live via Instagram (WEEKENDGOURMET) and Twitter (@TheWeekendGourm). Be sure to follow The Weekend Gourmet's social feeds to see lots of pictures and video of our San Antonio Restaurant Week dining adventures!
Photo provided by Bolo's Rotisserie Grill
While reservations are not required to dine out during San Antonio Restaurant Week, they are strongly encouraged -- especially if you want to dine at the city's most popular restaurants. All reservations should be booked directly with the restaurant(s) you wish to dine at. As an added bonus...not only will your meal be a delicious dining experience, but it will be a charitable one too! With every meal that is ordered during San Antonio Restaurant Week, each participating restaurant will donate $1 for lunch and $2 for dinner to Culinaria San Antonio and all of the great programs it supports.

Disclosure: Culinaria provided me a pair of dining vouchers for Bolo's, and Asado Seafood & Grill is hosting us for a Restaurant Week Dinner tasting, to facilitate coverage of the event. All opinions expressed are solely my own.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Lean Beef Recipes #SundaySupper...Featuring Lighter Tex-Mex Albondigas Soup

Happy 2017, everyone!! It's time to say goodbye to holiday indulging -- and hello to making healthier food choices. This week, #SundaySupper is focusing on Lean Beef Recipes. Just because you've resolved to eat lighter doesn't mean you have to give up beef! Our hostess this week is Sarah from Chef Next Door, and she asked us to share our favorite light recipe showcasing beef. I knew the weather was turning downright frigid by Texas standards by the end of this week, so I knew I wanted to make a hearty -- yet healthy -- beef soup. I decided to make a lighter spin on classic Mexican albondigas (aka meatball) soup!

This flavorful recipe features meatballs made with 93% lean ground beef and rice. The meatballs are simmered with healthy veggies in a flavorful broth. This is definitely a complete meal in a bowl, and it's bursting with the big flavors we love! The spice level in this soup is moderate, so even those who are spice-averse will love it. To save time, the meatballs can be made up to a day ahead and stored in an airtight bowl in the fridge until you're ready to cook the soup. This is the kind of soup that will fill your tummy...and keep you toasty warm...on the chilliest of Winter days!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out for January...Featuring San Antonio Detours' Pearl Brunch Tour

This month’s edition of The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out features San Antonio Detours’ tasty and fun weekend walking brunch tour of San Antonio's Pearl Brewery District. This tour company is based in Austin and recently expanded to San Antonio. They offer a wide variety of group tours that explore some of the city's famous historical well as a pair of food-based tours that spotlight some of San Antonio's best food. San Antonio Detours' motto is "We Create Fun!", and they really deliver on that promise. Group tours are kept to no more than 11 people to ensure a more personalized feel. Samantha was our tour guide, and she was friendly and knowledgeable. During the 2-hour the Pearl Brunch Tour, we enjoyed amazing food and beverages...and we learned a lot about the Pearl Brewery District that we didn't know. 

Known by locals as simply "The Pearl", this hot spot is located on the historic site of the former Pearl beer brewery. This multi-use complex offers area residents and visitors so much to see and do! The Pearl has several residential areas, 15 of the city's best restaurant, 13 retailers, 18 businesses, and a very popular twice-weekly Farmers Market. That makes this vibrant, growing neighborhood a fabulous place to explore on foot. One thing’s for sure: the Pearl District is one of the coolest places to eat and drink in San Antonio. With some of the city’s best restaurants, it’s a true culinary destination! The Pearl Brunch Tour weaves through the complex, making four different stops. At each location, Samantha told us about its history, what makes it so unique, the various cooking styles and ingredients used, and why certain menu items are so popular.

The first stop of our tour was for a cup of freshly brewed coffee at Local Coffee. As their name implies, Local Coffee sources the best coffee beans from around the world. The coffee beans are then roasted locally at their Merit Roasting Company. Local Coffee's commitment to quality means customers get to enjoy a cup of coffee that’s robust and smooth-as-silk. Local Coffee is very popular with San Antonio residents, as the line outside the door ably demonstrated!
The next stop of our tour was Southerleigh Fine Food and Brewery, where we enjoyed a cocktail and chilled starters. Southerleigh is located adjacent to Hotel Emma and offers seasonal comfort food and a variety of house-made craft beers. We started our brunch visit with a refreshing Pineapple Cocktail, which was a very nice change from the typical brunch mimosa. This delicious sparkling cocktail includes pineapple cider, champagne, and pineapple juice. While we sipped our cocktails, we enjoyed a trio of cold dishes. First up was the lovely Green Salad with Shaved Radish, Sweet Onion, Soft Boiled Egg, White Cheddar, and a delicious house-made Dijon vinaigrette. Next out of the kitchen were Iced Texas Gulf shrimp, which were served with house-made Fresh Horseradish Cocktail and Celery Root Remoulade dipping sauces. Finally, we sampled a seasonal fresh fruit plate with a variety of berries and melon. Everything was perfectly prepared and so fresh!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Cape Cod Select Cranberry Blogger Holiday Recipe Challenge...Featuring Cranberry-Thyme & Brie Phyllo Cups

Happy New Year! To bring 2016 to a festive close today, I'm sharing my official recipe entry for the Cape Cod Select Holiday Blogger Recipe Challenge. Cape Cod Select's premium frozen cranberries are hands down the best frozen cranberries I've cooked with! Cape Cod Select is a family-owned Massachusetts-based company that ensures cranberry lovers can use the tart red berry in their baking and cooking year round -- not just during the holiday season! Just in time for any last-minute New Year's Eve parties tonight...or even a fun game-day appetizer...I'm sharing my entry in the Baking Category: Cranberry-Thyme & Brie Phyllo Cups. 

For this savory-sweet bite-sized appetizer, a creamy whipped brie cheese mixture is baked in phyllo cups. Then, each cup is topped with a cranberry compote that's flavored with orange and fresh thyme. This appetizer looks sophisticated, but the components can be made up to a day ahead. Then you simply assemble, bake, and top when you're ready to serve. Add some nice wine or champagne, and you've got what I hope is an award-winning sweet-savory appetizer. Everyone who has tried these appetizers has loved them! Simple, gorgeous...and a winning combination!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Weekend Gourmet's Top 10 Recipes of 2016 #top10

As 2016 draws to a close, I wanted to take a brief look back at The Weekend Gourmet's Top 10 most popular recipes for the past year. These recipes are the best of the best, as selected by The Weekend Gourmet's readers. These big-flavor recipes are bursting with fun flavors and textures! I hope you'll give them a try -- they're some of my personal favorites as well...

10. French Onion Pull-Apart Rolls. Pull-apart bread loaves were really popular last year, so I decided to make a smaller individual roll-sized version. I love French onion soup, so I used those flavors for these zesty rolls. They're perfect with salads and soup.
9. Classic Shirred Eggs with Gruyere and Ham. I had never heard of the classic French dish shirred eggs until I tried this recipe. It features baked eggs flavored with cream, thyme, nutty Gruyere, and's a decadent weekend brunch dish that you'll go nuts for!
8. Blueberry Muffins with Coconut-Citrus Glaze. The tropical coconut-citrus glaze takes ordinary blueberry muffins over the top! Citrus pairs perfectly with blueberries, and coconut is a fun's like a vacation with every bite!
7. Chunky Greek Feta-Veggie Dip. Made with fat-free plain Greek yogurt is creamy...but with much less fat than traditional dips. This dip is flavored with tangy feta cheese, Mediterrean  herbs, and chopped veggies. It's great with crackers, but it also makes a fabulous topping for grilled chicken pita sandwiches!
6. Island Breeze Pina Colada Panna Cotta. This light, refreshing dessert is perfect for warm-weather entertaining! The lush, creamy coconut base is topped with diced pineapple and shredded coconut. I love to serve this dessert in a cocktail glass for a fun presentation. If you love drinking pina coladas, you'll go nuts for this dessert.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Stonyfield Clean Plate Club...Featuring Streamlined Eggnog-Spice Cookies with Silpat and Levoons

Can you believe that Christmas is THIS weekend?!?!? I’m not sure about you, but it sure seems like we were just gearing up for Halloween the other day! I finally got in the kitchen to do a bit of holiday baking over the weekend. Just in time for holiday celebrations this weekend, I’ve got an easy-to-make seasonal cookie for your cookie trays and cookie tins! My Streamlined Eggnog-Spice Sandwich Cookies are a snap to make, and they pair perfectly with a glass of ice-cold eggnog. 

As a Stonyfield Clean Plate Club member, I recently received a Silpat non-stick silicone cookie sheet liner and handy Levoons self-leveling measuring spoons to help make my cookie-making easy and stress free. These sandwich cookies truly couldn’t be easier to make thanks to using these handy kitchen tools! To save time, I also used a convenient spice cake mix as the base for my cookies. The end result is a soft, cake-like cookie that's flavored with eggnog and rum extract. I also used a bit of Stonyfield vanilla Greek yogurt in place of melted butter to save a bit of fat and calories -- and ensure that my cookies had a tender crumb. 

Levoons are really cool measuring spoons that come with a handy built-in leveling tool that ensures your baking measurements are always accurate – which is very important when baking! The Silpat ensured my cookies baked evenly on bottom and didn't stick to my cookie sheet. Both of these items would make amazing holiday gifts for the cooks and bakers in your life! While the cookies baked, I whipped up a quick buttercream flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg…and more eggnog and rum extract. After the cookies cooled, I sandwiched them with the flavorful buttercream. The end result was somewhere between a cookie and a whoopee pie, with a pronounced eggnog flavor that’s perfect for holidays entertaining.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out: Anna de Codorníu Brunch at Grazye San Antonio #WGDinesOut

For this month's edition of The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out -- the last for 2016 -- I'm featuring Grayze. Grayze is located in a former home on Grayson St., not far from Downtown. That location makes it convenient for both locals and visitors to visit this great restaurant! During the week, they offer creative lunch and dinner menus...but on Sunday, they offer a fun and creative brunch menu. If the weather is pretty, there's a large outdoor covered patio to dine on. When we visited Grayze for a very special brunch last month, it was a gorgeous Sunday we headed outdoors to dine al fresco! Over the next hour and a half, we enjoyed delicious casual gourmet menu items -- paired with amazing mimosas courtesy of Anna de Codorníu sparkling wine. Let's face it...the perfect mimosa is a key component of any weekend brunch experience!

Throughout the Fall and holiday season, Anna de Codorníu teamed with restaurants throughout Texas -- including Grayze -- for spotlight brunch menus. Anna de Codorníu is Spain’s best selling sparkling wine. Elegant and feminine, Anna de Codorníu has a crisp, refreshing flavor that's pairs perfectly with classic brunch fare. With its striking white bottle, Anna is made in the "méthode traditionelle" from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes sourced from Codorníu’s vineyards in D.O. Cava, in the greater Barcelona region of Spain. Anna is perfect for mimosas, with its delicate citrus flavor profile -- and a touch of creaminess that comes from 15 months of extended aging. As we sipped on delicious mimosas, we looked over the Grayze brunch menu. After mulling over our options, we decided on a quartet of menu items. We started with two lighter, veg-friendly menu options: Caprayze Salad and Avocado Toast with Soft Boiled Eggs. Both were perfectly prepared!
The Avocado Toast featured creamy avocado spread on toasted rye bread, with shaved carrots, dressed baby greens, and sunflower seeds. The addition of a perfectly cooked soft boiled egg was genius -- the rich runny yolk worked perfectly with the creamy avocado. Grayze's version of Caprayze Salad featured fresh basil, purple onion, and a variety of perfectly ripe tomatoes. It was all tossed in a lovely pesto vinaigrette. Our brunch was off to an amazing start!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Wendy's Favorite Things...Holiday Gift Guide Edition #wendyfavethings #greateight #holidaygiftguide

For this month's Wendy's Favorite Things roundup, I'm featuring my 2016 Holiday Gift Guide!! This month's Great Eight features holiday presents that are sure to please your favorite foodies. From sweet to cookbooks and even a handy kitchen appliance...there's truly something for every type of foodie on your shopping list!!

(1) Bissinger’s Peppermint Bark and Peppermint Marshmallows. It's true: peppermint and chocolate is an iconic flavor! For all of the peppermint lovers on your shopping list, St. Louis-based Bissinger’s chocolate has an amazing duo of peppermint-chocolate confections that will drive them wild! Bissinger’s Peppermint Chocolate Bark layers dark and white chocolate, then tops each piece it with a generous amount of crushed peppermint. This is amazing peppermint bark! For marshmallow lovers, be sure to check out Bissinger’s Peppermint Marshmallows. Handmade marshmallows are dipped in dark chocolate -- then the tops are sprinkled with crushed peppermint for a downright decadent treat! Both treats come packaged in a red box that's covered with festive red-and-white holiday packaging. Given separately or as a pair, Bissinger’s chocolate-peppermint confections are a tasty and fun holiday gift. To purchase, visit the Holiday section of Bissinger’s online store.

(2) Olive & Sinclair Artisan ConfectionsIf you have someone on your gift-giving list who enjoys trying unique artisan sweets, look no further than Olive & Sinclair! This Nashville-based company features creative Southern Artisan Chocolate™ bars, as well as modern spins on traditional candy. Two of my personal favorite items in their collection are their Sea Salt & Vinegar Caramels and Bourbon Nib Brittle. The addition of vinegar to traditional sea salt caramels adds a tart element that compliments the salt and cuts through some of the sweetness usually found in caramels. The end result is a little unusual…and totally delicious. Their Bourbon Nib Brittle features cocoa nibs that are aged in small-batch bourbon barrels, then added to a buttery brittle that's coated with Olive & Sinclair's fair-trade dark chocolate on back. This is one sophisticated brittle – you definitely won’t be able to stop at one piece! To order these two items – or anything from Olive & Sinclair’s line of creative selections – visit their online store.

(3) The County Line Air Ribs. Love Texas BBQ, but want to enjoy it at home? Whether you live here in Texas…or in a far-away state…iconic Central Texas restaurant The Country Line has exactly what you need! Their Air Ribs mail order program lets BBQ lovers order County Line’s delicious smoked ribs, brisket, and sausage for home delivery in the continental United States. The meat arrives cooked, vacuum sealed for freshness, and flash frozen. When it arrives, the recipient simply follows the enclosed heating instructions -- and it’s just like dining at The County Line! The Air Ribs program offers smoky Texas BBQ in a wide range of prices, depending on what and how much you want to order. There’s something for every budget, starting at around $100. I tried the Get It All Over Ya Combo, which came with brisket, beef ribs, baby back pork ribs, sausage, and two kinds of BBQ sauce. The meat cooked up perfectly in my oven…and it tasted exactly like what we’ve enjoyed at The County Line restaurants over the years. To treat your favorite BBQ lover to smoky Texas BBQ this holiday season, simply visit the Air Ribs website.

(4) Susan Branch's Heart of the Home 30th Anniversary Edition. When I was in college, I received a copy of Susan Branch’s Heart of the Home cookbook. In fact, it might be the first cookbook that I ever received. I loved the charming illustrations, Ms. Branch's friendly writing style…and the easy-to-understand recipes. Over the years, I'e used my book time and time again. I was really excited to see that Susan Branch released a 30th Anniversary edition of this iconic cookbook this Fall! Some of the many great recipes include Heavenly Banana Cream Pie and Lemon Chicken. This cookbook would be a perfect holiday gift for your favorite home chef – the recipes are all tried-and-true winners, and the illustrations are so cheerful. This updated classic can be purchased in major retail bookstores and online via Amazon. However, if you order direct from Susan Branch's website, you will receive a signed copy...making the gift extra special!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Eggnog Recipes #SundaySupper...Featuring Spiked Eggnog Hot White Cocoa #eggnog #boozy #cocoa

The holidays are finally here! With the holidays comes all of the signature sights, sounds...and flavors...of the season! In honor of National Eggnog Month in December, this week's #SundaySupper is all about Eggnog Recipes. Our hostess is Christie from A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventure, who asked us to share our favorite eggnog-inspired recipes, so I came up with an adults-only version of hot white chocolate that features everyone's favorite eggnog flavors in one creamy, warming spiked sip! 

My Spiked Eggnog Hot White Cocoa is made with a handful of simple ingredients, and it's ready to enjoy in about 10 minutes. It's spiked with spiced rum, but feel free to sub some rum extract for the under 21 crowd. This warming drink is perfect for any upcoming holiday parties that you're planning...and it pairs perfectly with holiday cookies. It's basically a holiday party in a mug!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Holiday #Foodies4Foodbanks Funraiser...Featuring Streamlined Weeknight Shepherd's Pie #BeefTogether

For me, the holiday season is a time of joy and wonder -- when I count my blessings for all the goodness in my life. Colorful decorations and lights, festive music, time spent with my loved ones...and lots of great food. Unfortunately, this is not the case for everyone. Many American families are going hungry, or are food insecure, this holiday season -- so they struggle to have enough food to eat. I wanted to do my part to help! Enter Feeding America and the New York Beef Council via the #Foodies4Foodbanks holiday fundraising effort. Via Feeding America's nationwide network of food banks, there's a way to help feed those in need this holiday season -- which is where you come in!! The Weekend Gourmet is joining other food blogs to encourage our readers to donate to #Foodies4Foodbanks between now and December 12th. 

As part of this event, we're also sharing some of our favorite economical beef recipes. I wanted to make a streamlined version of shepherd's pie that can be whipped up on the busiest of holiday weeknights. My Streamlined Weeknight Shepherd's Pie tastes like it's been cooking for hours, but it's ready in about 45 minutes -- most of which is hands-off time! I used economical instant mashed potatoes here, which keeps the price of this comforting family meal right at my goal of $10 total to feed four people. Since shepherd's pie reminds me a bit of a pot pie, I cooked my shepherd's pies in four individual ramekins. However, you can layer everything in one 2-quart casserole dish instead.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Weekend Gourmet Flashback: Peppermint Bark Brookies #holidaycookies #peppermint #holidaybaking

Hi, everyone...miss me?!?!? I apologize for being a bit scarce around here this month. Between a hectic time a my day job, our amazing blog trip to California, and the Thanksgiving holiday? This entire month whooshed right by me! The good news is that I'm back and ready to get in the kitchen to whip up lots of great holiday treats to share with you in the coming weeks. I want to kick things off by flashing back to one of my most popular holiday cookies, as selected by my readers. My Peppermint Bark Brookies combine two of my favorite holiday flavors -- peppermint and chocolate -- into one irresistible treat. 

These easy-to-make cookies are made using a convenient boxed brownie mix that includes chocolate chips. These yummy brownie cookies (aka brookies) bake up chewy and fudgy...and my addition of peppermint mini marshmallows adds a dash of fun. After cooling, the brookies are dipped in white chocolate and sprinkled with crushed peppermint for a fun peppermint bark accent. For peppermint lovers like me, these are the ultimate holiday cookie!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Weekend Gourmet Hits the Road: Texas Monthly BBQ Fest 2016 in Austin #tmbbq

A few weeks back, Michael and I had a fantastic time eating some of the very best BBQ in Texas - and beyond- at this year's Texas Monthly BBQ Fest in Austin. Texas Monthly magazine's annual TMBBQ Fest is an afternoon festival that showcases the Texas' best BBQ joints all in one convenient location. Eager Texas BBQ lovers line up to enjoy a wide range of BBQ specialties! It's always a great time, and the 2016 TMBBQ Fest was no exception. This year 27 BBQ joints took part in the event, which was held at Austin's Long Center. The TMBBQ Fest is quite simply the best way to enjoy delicious BBQ from the state's best BBQ joints in the span of a few hours. Rather than drive all over this vast state, BBQ lovers simply line up at each BBQ joint's booth to taste their smoked meat offerings. No wonder it's one of our favorite foodie events every year!!

We headed to Austin on a warm Sunday morning and met our cousins -- and chief travel and social media partners -- Mark and Crystal to get our BBQ groove on. Because we had media passes, Michael and I were able to enter the Fest an hour before the general public. That meant one thing: make an immediate beeline for Franklin BBQ's booth to beat the inevitable long lines! Austin-based Franklin BBQ is the consensus #1 BBQ in Texas, so its very popular. Weekend lines can exceed 3 hours at the restaurant, but we only had to wait about 45 minutes to get our hands on some of Franklin's amazing BBQ via the Fest!! Owner Aaron Franklin was on hand and amazingly friendly, taking time to chat with everyone and pose for pictures. 
Franklin's offered Fest attendees generous samples of their luscious smoked brisket, tender pulled pork, and juicy sausage. Franklin's brisket is hands down our favorite of all time - fall-apart tender and incredibly juicy! While we waited in the comparatively short line for our Franklin's BBQ, we purchased one of Aaron Franklin's BBQ cookbooks Aaron Franklin graciously agreed to autograph the book for us. Naturally, I had to commemorate the moment with a picture of him and Michael -- and the signed cookbook.

There are so many great BBQ joints in Texas, and we had a blast checking out all of their offerings. From lamb chops to smoked pork ribs...and even a few fun surprises...we had a great foodie adventure sampling the wide variety of smoked meats available at the Fest. With gorgeous afternoon views of downtown Austin as a backdrop, hungry attendees lined up to sample some amazing Texas BBQ! Two of our favorite offerings came from Austin's Stiles Switch BBQ and Killen's BBQ in Pearland -- just outside Houston.
Stile's Switch offered something we don't commonly see here in Texas: smoked chicken legs topped with yummy Alabama white BBQ sauce. This tangy mayo-based sauce is totally different than what we typically see here in Texas, but it was an unexpected surprise we all enjoyed! Killen's offered generous portions of their delicious brisket and pork ribs. The ribs were especially delicious -- lightly sauced and falling off the bone. That is true BBQ nirvana, folks!!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Best Holiday Side Dishes #SundaySupper...Featuring Southern Praline Sweet Potato Casserole

I think I'm in a bit of denial that the holiday season is fast approaching...Thanksgiving is somehow literally around the corner! If you're looking for some fresh new side dishes to serve at your upcoming holiday feast, the #SundaySupper family is coming to your rescue today. Our hostess for today's Best Holiday Side Dishes is Caroline from Caroline’s Cooking. I love Thanksgiving...growing up, we always had a big Southern-style meal at my grandparents' house with all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins. Sweet potatoes topped with gooey melted marshmallows were usually on the menu back then. To this day, I love sweet potatoes...but I make mine a little bit different.

My Southern Praline Sweet Potato Casserole is easy to make and bursting with the signature flavors of the South. A creamy, vibrant orange sweet potato base is flavored with maple syrup, orange liqueur, and pumpkin pie spice. Then, it's topped with a crumbly praline-flavored streusel that's flavored with more pumpkin pie spice and pecans. I've been making this casserole for years -- it's my personal riff on a recipe I first saw in Cooking Light magazine. Everyone who tries it goes totally nuts for it! As a bonus, it can be assembled a day ahead and refrigerated overnight -- saving you valuable time during the hectic holidays.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out for October: Boudro's Texas Bistro #WGDinesOut

This month, The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out spotlight is shining on Boudro's, a longtime favorite Riverwalk restaurant. Popular with locals and visitors alike since 1986, this Texas bistro features big-flavor food and drinks...and picturesque Riverwalk views. Michael and I recently enjoyed a delicious meal that featured some of Boudro's signature menu items. We were warmly greeted by the servers and shown to our table. While we decided on our entrees, we decided to start out with cocktails and Boudro's signature Guacamole for Two, which is made to order at your table. I ordered a Prickly Pear Margarita, the restaurant's colorful signature cocktail. Michael opted for a Strawberry Caipirinha, which was flavored with fresh strawberries, basil, and serrano pepper with key lime and Cachaca, a Brazilian sugar cane distilled spirit. Both cocktails paired perfectly with the excellent guacamole.
Our server Tracy is a guacamole expert. He customized the guacamole to our flavor preference, and it's some of the best guacamole we've ever tasted. It was flavored with roasted tomato and Serrano peppers, orange and lime juices, and cilantro. It was nice and chunky, with just enough heat. It was the perfect start to our meal!

Boudro's offers a wide range of entrees -- from seafood to steak and chops and other specialties. We both focusesd on two seafood entrees during our visit. Michael loves Cajun food and quickly zeroed in on the Boudreaux's Shrimp and Grits, while I opted for the over-the-top good Gulf Shellfish Platter.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Sneak Preview of our Upcoming Culinary Adventure in San Francisco, Sonoma, and Napa Valley #WGTravel #Cali2016

I’m thrilled to announce The Weekend Gourmet’s next culinary travel adventure is going to be San Francisco, Sonoma, and Napa Valley! Next month, my four-person team will be exploring the very best, food, wine, and attractions in the area…and sharing all of the fun with you via live social media shares and a multi-part series of articles. I wanted to share a sneak preview of our itinerary today, because I’m so excited about this trip! After a Summer and early Fall that was spent tending to a wounded leg, then dealing with a nasty bout of shingles? I'm ready to have some fun adventures! Michael and I first visited the Bay Area and wine country area in 2009, the year before we founded The Weekend Gourmet. We fell in love with the area and are so excited to be going back! Our trip will start with two nights in San Francisco, where we will explore Fisherman’s Wharf, visit the Ferry Building Market, and eat our fill of Dungeness crab, clam chowder, and other local favorites. 
Our home base for the first leg of our journey is the beautiful Hyatt Regency San Francisco, which is ideally located near the picturesque Embarcadero and features stunning waterfront views. We will be dining at Pier 39's Fog Harbor Fish House, enjoying contemporary Japanese cuisine at Ozumo, and clam chowder and other seafood delights at Bistro Boudin. We will also be dining at Restaurant Gary Danko, one of San Francisco’s best fine-dining restaurants. We dined at Gary Danko during our 2009 trip, and it's one of the best dining experiences we've ever enjoyed!  

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Summer Visit to New York...Featuring The Library Hotel #WGTravel #EastCoast2016

Photo provided  by The Library Hotel Collection
This Summer, we enjoyed a fabulous long weekend in New York. I’ve shared most of the trip with you over the past few weeks, but I still have a few more delights left to share today! We spent the last evening of our visit at the charming boutique Library Hotel. This gem is located – as its name implies – just down from the New York Public Library's Main Branch. This hotel is the perfect hotel for bibliophiles. Everywhere you look, you’ll find fun library- and book-themed décor! When you enter the lobby area, you find bookshelves and old-school library Dewey decimal card files. The theme continues to the main floors – each of which is named after a specific literary genre. Room numbers follow the Dewey decimal system – complete with corresponding books inside each room for reading. 
Our room featured a Queen bed and a soothing color scheme. It was a cozy and relaxing home base to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. The room also featured a marble bathroom with a nice tub for soaking. Like all hotels in the Library Hotel Collection, The Library offers guests complimentary WiFi connectivity. For another fun decorating touch, check out the cheeky embroidered pillow that was on our bed!
We’ve stayed at all four New York properties in the Library Hotel Collection, and we’ve been very impressed by their excellent customer service, casual-elegant atmosphere, and amazing guest amenities. Apparently, we’re not their only fans! The Library Hotel Collection was recently named the #1 Luxury Hotel Brand in the world for 2016. They earned an impressive 96.1% score in the Guest Rating Index (GRI) based on 2.7 million guest reviews in 2015.

We dropped our bags for storage with the friendly front desk staff at The Library's check-in counter before heading out for a day of fun! Every time we come to New York, a stop at The Doughnut Plant for amazing artisan doughnuts and chai tea is a definite must. We made our way to the Lower East Side and made a beeline for Doughnut Plant's original location. We love enjoying our favorite flavors…and trying special seasonal flavors too! This time, our doughnut sampler included Peanut Butter & Jelly, Coconut Cream, Chocolate Blackout Cake, a Chocolate Hazelnut Doughseed, Tres Leche Cake (our personal fave!!), and a Creme Brulee Doughseed. The square shape of their filled doughnuts ensures you get a taste of filling with every bite. Take a look...and get ready to drool!
My cousin Michael lives in New York, so he and his little girl met up with us for a mid-morning foodie adventure. The only thing better than a breakfast of Doughnut Plant doughnuts and steaming hot chai tea is sharing the experience with family you don't get to see very often!
After stuffing ourselves with doughnuts and chai tea, we decided to make the short 10-minute walk to Vanessa’s Dumpling House in nearby Chinatown. We love going to Vanessa’s, because you can get a ton of delicious, authentic Asian food for not very much money. Vanessa's is actually one of our best tips for stretching our food budget when visiting New York!

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