Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Christmas Feasts

For Christmas morning, our favorite breakfast is Monkey Bread! Whats not to like about ooey gooey biscuits baked and smothered with cinnamon, sugar, and melted butter!! Unfortunately, it was so good, it was gone before I could get a picture of it!

For dinner we had a buffet of appetizers, including hot crab dip, credit with a garden pepper & feta cheese ball, fresh tomato bruschetta, steamed shrimp, herby pork tenderloin medallions, and chocolate covered strawberries!

The morning after Christmas, we went out to Amphora for breakfast that included bacon, fried eggs, and cheese blintzes!

What are your Christmas food traditions? Whats your favorite Christmas dish?

Monday, December 29, 2014

Morrison House Grill

In the weeks leading up to Christmas there are always lots of fun and exciting parties and performances and various holiday events. One such event I always look forward to is my husbands company Christmas dinner. Superking works for a very small home-based business in the IT field.  When I say small, I mean really small...6 employees. And all the employees/employers are either close friends or family...the boss, the boss's wife, their daughter-in-law, my husband, my brother-in-law, and my brother-in-law's wife, and then there's me. I'm the only one not an employee but thankfully I get to tag along for a good meal.  For our Christmas dinner we always go to a nice upscale restaurant nearby.

This year's choice was The Grille at the Morrison House.  The Morrison House is an old Federalist-style mansion located in old town Alexandria that is now an inn. The Grille, the restaurant located in the mansion, serves a contemporary French American cuisine. Each room is filled with beautiful antiques, several fireplaces, and even a piano bar. Our meal that evening was accompanied by a talented pianist playing Christmas carols in the style of Vince Guaraldi (see A Charlie Brown Christmas).  

Our meal began with a fancy cheese platter for the whole table to share. Five glorious cheeses...Ameribella (cow cheese from Indiana), Brabander (a Holland goat cheese), Umber (New York cow), Moses Sleeper (Vermont cow), Cashel Blue (Irish cow).  I don't really remember which was which, all I know is that they were all delicious. I haven't met too many cheeses I didn't like. This was a nice variety of mild, sharp, tangy, and creamy.

One of my favorite French dishes is the classic escargot. Yep, snails. If you are a little put off about trying escargot, I always tell people if you like shrimp in garlic butter, you will like escargot.  The escargot itself doesn't really have much flavor on its own, it has a similar texture to shrimp, and its soaked in garlic butter.  Everything tastes yummy if its drenched in garlic butter.  And they are served hot with a nice piece of crusty bread!

Superking also had the Country Pate. It was served with pickled onions, cornichons (tiny pickles), a few greens, grainy mustard, and a crusty baguette. A mixture of salty meat and tangy sharp mustard.

He also had the seared filet mignon served with Yorkshire pudding, sauteed mushrooms, and a bordelaise sauce. I was a little disappointed to discover that Yorkshire pudding is really just a popover.  Not that it wasn't tasty, I just thought a Yorskhire pudding should have something in it for the "pudding" part! Oh well! The way I understand it, it is a light fluffy bread thats made with drippings from the meat and thats what makes it special.  The sauteed mushrooms were deliciously earthy! The bordelaise sauce is made with a dry red wine, bone marrow, butter, and shallots.

The pan seared Rock Fish, while the skin was a little too salty for my liking it was crispy and the fish light and flaky. It was served over a mushroom risotto and wilted kale. It could've done with a little less kale (which would've been better if it was crispy) but the risotto was delightfully creamy.

A couple people in our party ordered the dark bavarian chocolate cake which seemed to be quite delectable. But I had to go for the Chevre Cheesecake. When we ordered it, the waiter asked us, "you know thats goat cheese; do you still want to order that?" We chuckled and replied, "of course we know thats goat cheese; thats WHY we are ordering it!"

The cheesecake itself was superbly creamy and tangy and it was topped with a shortbread crumble and huckleberry jam, which was a nice balance of sweet and tart as well.  Next to the cake were several meringues made with rosemary.

All in all it was a tasty meal and a great time with friends and family!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Thanksgiving and Christmas

Yep, its been that busy that I'm combining both holidays into one post. There's been a party or some sort of event every weekend for the last 6 weeks!! Hence the reason for no blog posts since the end of October! happens. Anywho...

our Thanksgiving table

stained glass cookies

There are many different traditions that encompass the holidays.  And its always a little tricky trying to coordinate families and in-laws. For Thanksgiving, our families have it down to a great pattern that work pretty well.  Here's how my Thanksgiving weekend goes...Thanksgiving Day, we go to my in-laws sometime early afternoon, have an early dinner, then some veg on the couch watching Christmas movies while the rest of us play board games at the table while having dessert.  Then that Friday, we hunker down at home (I'm not crazy enough to go out into all that Black Friday nonsense), watch more Christmas movies and pull out all the Christmas decorations to start planning where everything is going to go.  That Saturday, we head out to my parents house which is an hour away in the mountains. On our way out, we stop and get a Christmas tree so that when we get home later that night we can put it up and start decorating.  We've done it this way for years and it works like clockwork.

we did a deep fried turkey this year!! way shorter cooking time and the juiciest, most flavorful turkey I've ever tasted!! Thanks to my sister and brother-in-law!!

can't have Thanksgiving without apple pie!

Pablo is helping to cut down the Christmas tree

Christmas, however, is a different story. Since Christmas moves around to different days of the week, our plans tend to change from year to year. But we try to spend equal time with both families as much as we can.  But with Christmas its not just one day. Its a whole month of activities, parties, dinners, gifts, parades, and programs.  One of my favorite Christmas events is the Annual Cookie Competition, my friend Lisa hosts every year.

I like to do themed Christmas trees...

this years theme is books! I made little paper books with some of my favorite titles and then copied pages from several books to make my garland.

Every brings their best tasting, most beautifully decorated cookies to try to win a prize.  The awards are Prettiest, Best Tasting, Most Unusual, and the most coveted Best of Show. I've had the privilege of winning Prettiest a few times and even Best of Show once. This year we participated in pairs and I paired with my mom. We didn't win anything but we did come in a very close 2nd for Prettiest.  The one that did win (by only one vote) was a very pretty Baby Buche de Noel!

cutting out the cookies...they smelled of a wonderful almond!

jolly ranchers go in the middle...

the jolly ranchers melted beautifully (and smelled yummy too!)

then we decorate with the icing!

then set to dry...

We also do a sorbet taste test...our host creates a unique delicious sorbet and we have to guess the flavors. This years sorbet was vanilla bean and white chocolate liquer, which I did not guess correctly. And this year we had a new addition to the event...a Sock White Elephant game.  Everyone brings a pair of Christmas socks and we get to trade and steal til we get the socks we want. I ended up with a cool pair of very fuzzy, very cozy knee socks!

the winner for Prettiest...although is it really a cookie?...

the winner for Most Unusual

I guess I forgot to get a picture of the Best Tasting Cookies, which were Raspberry Shortbread...delicious!!  Ultimately the winning cookie for Best of Show was a stunning and adorable Miss Hello Kitty Christmas! Congrats to Crishana and Christy!