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Posted on Feb 18, 2013 in Food | 8 comments

Founding Farmers, Take 2

Happy President’s Day, everyone! I’ve got the day off, and thus have sworn to high heaven that I’ll be making use of my holiday by writing (we’ll see how well that goes), but for those of you who are stuck dredging away the day in the office, I’ve got some mouth-watering photos for ya.

As I mentioned in Friday’s post, I had dinner with my good friend Lauren from Oatmeal After Spinning, and my new friend Kelly from Kelly Fiore Writes on Saturday! Lauren and Kelly are best friends from high school, and while I’ve known Lauren for a while thanks to the mad and lovable world of blogging, I got to meet Kelly for the first time last weekend (at the Frederick Restaurant Week sneak peek).

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We dragged our significant others out to dinner to belated celebrate Lauren’s birthday, and to celebrate Kelly’s husband’s birthday. While I was obviously super excited to get to hang out with these lovely ladies (and their equally lovely husbands), I was admittedly a little hesitant as well. See, our dinner destination was the Montgomery County location of Founding Farmers, and some of you may already know that I had a pretty miserable experience at the original Founding Farmers in DC a couple years back. So even though I knew this was an entirely different location, I was still a little bit unsure of how the experience would go.

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Well, I’m happy to report that things went MUCH better this time around! It wasn’t an impeccable dining experience, service-wise, but it was like 10,000 steps up from what I experienced before. And since the food was indeed delicious, and the company was perfect, overall I really did end up having a great time. I started with a glass of Willamette Valley pinot noir (the best!) and we all shared a few of the small plate appetizers from FF’s extensive farm-to-table menu. (Seriously, I spent like 15 straight minutes poring over the menu–so many options that ALL appealed to me!)

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The selection of apps included housemade ranch popcorn, bread and dips (including this garlicky green goddess dip that I wanted to spoon directly into my mouth), and spicy pickled carrots. Lauren also ended up getting a thing of skillet corn bread with her meal, which ended up being my favorite thing on the table. Lots of real pieces of corn, and an epic honey butter (which was literally butter and honey combined in one little condiment cup, haha)… mmm, I’m drooling just thinking about it. Regretting not having snagged a picture.

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For my meal, I started out with a sample sized Farmer’s Salad, which included romaine, avocado, figs, cherry tomatoes, grapes, slivered almonds, olives, and a bit of parmesan cheese. Yum.

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Then, for my entree, I ordered the Lemon Meunière Diver Scallops, which were delicious. I loooove scallops, so it’s pretty hard to screw them up for me, and these were garlicky and lemony and cooked very well.

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They were served with a butternut squash risotto in the middle, which ended up only being okay for me. While I loved the concept of the butternut squash in the risotto, there was just something off about the flavor–it had kind of a bitter aftertaste that I wasn’t expecting. Still, overall I enjoyed my plate a lot. And I also enjoyed the bites from Sean’s steak and enchilada dish that I stole, hehehe. Ultimately it was an awesome dinner out with friends, and certainly helped redeem Founding Farmers in my eyes–at least at the Maryland location.

Now I’m off to write! And if you’ll allow me just one li’l shameless plug before we part ways here, I do have a fun announcement: My book, Terra is currently on sale!!

Pick up a digital copy for your Kindle, Nook, Kobo, or iPad/iPhone for just $3.99. Happy President’s Day!

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Posted on Dec 19, 2012 in Food | 11 comments

Twinsies

You know that person? That one friend who is so eerily similar to you, it’s a little bit frightening? I like to think that most people have someone like that in their lives. And for me, that person is my good friend Aileen.

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Our friendship story has either been in the works for a very long time, or it’s still pretty new–I can’t really decide which. In the grand scheme of life, we haven’t actually known each other that long, but I think we all know that time isn’t everything. Aileen is the sister of Joanna, my freshman year college roommate. I’d heard about this mystery sister quite a bit that year, but we didn’t actually meet until many years later. Joanna and I reconnected after we graduated from college (go Dukes!) due to the amazingness that is social media, and it was at this point that I connected with Aileen as well.

And thank goodness for that.

See, Aileen and I are basically twins. Which hopefully Joanna won’t get mad at me for saying, since she and Aileen are ACTUAL twins. Like, born-60-seconds-apart, shared-the-same-womb twins. (…as opposed to the other kind? Hahahahaha.) But there is just so MUCH that Aileen and I share: a tendency to stray toward the melodramatic, lifelong battles with the neuroses that actually make us totally awesome and super good listmakers, and a deep, unyielding love of Harry Potter, cheese, and American Musical Theatre. Oh yeah, and there’s this:

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That’s right, in case you hadn’t already pieced it together from the numerous mentions I’ve made of her before, Aileen is my glorious, patient, wonderful book editor as well. In fact, check out this interview article where Aileen talks about what the painstaking editing process for Terra was like, or her own blog post on it!

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Aileen has been such a HUGELY integral part of Terra being as awesome and kickass as it is (in my, y’know, totally unbiased opinion, hahaha), and last night we finally got to celebrate the book’s launch together… and in the best possible way. With a homemade meal, mini bottles of champagne, and pumpkin-spice rice krispie ball pops (!!) that Aileen brought over.

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Being the good sport that she is, she happily (?) helped make my garlicky dreams come true by helping me whip up my delectable Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic recipe.

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We also had roasted Brussels sprouts (uh, duh) and I found this particularly huge B-sprouts stalk at the grocery store… which reminded me that while it really does look cool, but it’s such an extra pain in the patooty. Which I guess is why I’m lucky that Aileen was willing to shuck the stalk, hahahaha.

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Aaaanyway, the two of us got down to business in the kitchen, chopping and dicing and drinking champagne–as all truly great chefs do, I’m sure–whilst simultaneously taaaaalkingtalkingtalkingtalkingtalking because we’re really, really good at that.

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Also, we peeled so much garlic that my hands still smell like garlic as I type this. I keep vacillating between whether that’s a good or bad thing.

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PEEL ALL THE GARLIC.

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Ultimately, garlicky-fingers or not, we ended up with a feast fit for kings. Er, queens. Er, modern day self-proclaimed princesses. We also made the recipe for Celebrations Quinoa with Dried Cranberries and Spiced Pecans that was served at Anne’s wedding.

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I have been sitting on this recipe since Anne sent it to me and now I do not even understand why I waited. It. Was. Phenomenal. Seriously, make it, make it now. SO easy and SO delicious. I don’t even love quinoa that much, and I’m still saying it.

ANYWAY. Basically, it was kind of a perfect Tuesday evening. Which is actually awesome, because I make no attempts to hide my general hatred for Tuesdays. They are typically the very worst day of the week, after all. But not this one! There was delicious homemade food, booze, baked goods, and my amazing friend. Also, schnauzers in Christmas sweaters. Win-win-win…win.

(Also, I know I linked to it way at the top, but it bears mentioning again that Aileen’s blog, Army Pants and Flip Flops, is amazing. It’s seriously fracking funny, and you should read it. Her writing is legitimately laugh-out-loud hilarious and there are many, many, MANY references to cheese. And Harry Potter. And basically all things awesome. Okay, I’m done now.)

Happy Wednesday! My sister flies into town tonight and is going to be here through Christmas, and I’m SO EXCITED!! And scared, because I haven’t seen her in over a month and I really have no idea what to expect with regard to her super-preggo-baby-belly situation. If you feel like winning a bet tonight, I suggest you put money down on me crying.

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Posted on Dec 17, 2012 in Dear Diary, Fashion, Food | 8 comments

POPs

Before I get into my little weekend recap post, I just wanted to take a second to pay homage to the tragedy that occurred last week in Newtown, CT. I would feel like an a-hole if I said absolutely nothing, but, of course, there’s really nothing I can say. It’s a horrific tragedy, and I just… there are simply no words. Anyway, I’m not trying to be a downer, I just think that a tragedy of this magnitude deserves acknowledgement and, of course, remembrance. Not for the monster that did this, but to commemorate and celebrate the lives that were taken.

Okay. So. Now to pluck myself out of the doldrums again, very awkwardly and non sequitur…ly. Eeeeyeah.

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Thanks to my book release as well as the birth of one pretty neat older brother, this weekend was full of little celebrations. Friday night, my boyfriend Sean took me on a date to my beloved Sweetwater Tavern to celebrate the book, then Saturday we had a birthday potluck in honor of Ben’s 29th birthday at the house! Sadly, I took absolutely zero photos of either event. Womp womp fail.

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What I *did* take photos of was Sunday’s excursion. Also, many vain outfit shots. Heh. My whole family gathered together to go see the National Symphony Orchestra’s Holiday POPs concert at the Kennedy Center! Naturally, I found this the perfect excuse to bust out one of my Oh-em-gee-this-dress-is-only-$9-but-when-am-I-ever-going-to-wear-it purchases from when I decimated the Leesburg Outlets with my friend Holly back in October.

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I love a good reason to get dressed up! We had dinner at the Terrace Restaurant in the Kennedy Center before the show, which was delicious and extravagant.

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I started with a salad that had bibb lettuce, blue cheese, candied cashews, apples, and an apple vinaigrette (and helped myself to not a small amount of Sean’s seafood chowder, hahaha). I got the mussels & frites for my entree, which was actually listed as an appetizer so I got an OBSCENE amount of mussels. Not that I’m complaining. But yeah, literally, I had a cauldron full of mussels. Om nom nom.

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Then it was time for the show! The concert itself was wonderful. It was a lot more jazzy than I expected — the NSO collaborated with an a cappella quartet called “New York Voices” and the result was a lot of complex harmonies and jazz interpretations of our favorite traditional holiday tunes.

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Okay, fine, it was mostly Christmas tunes (they even had Santa come out at the end, haha), but they DID play one non-Christmas song (O, Chanukah) so I guess that’s what makes it a “Holiday” concert, hahaha. Either way, it was super enjoyable, very impressive, and really got my holiday gears cranking (’cause… you know… I have such a difficult time getting excited for Christmas… lololol). GUYS. THIS IS THE LAST WEEK BEFORE CHRISTMAS WEEK. AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!

What’s your favorite thing about the holiday season? You know, pre-actual Christmas, what’s your favorite thing about this Decemberiffic time? The decorations, the baked goods constantly available, the tacky sweater parties…?

PS: Quick note. Just in case any of you are looking for me on Twitter moving forward, I’ve updated my handle to @gretchenpowell!

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Posted on Nov 23, 2012 in Food | 7 comments

Turkey Day 2012

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Twenty-two pounds of bird, twelve people, five hours of cooking, and two miniature schnauzers schnauzers. The food. Ohhhhh the food! Roasted turkey, butternut squash and sausage stuffing, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, sweet potato and spinach salad, green bean bundles, roasted brussels sprouts, cranberry pear compote with port wine, and turkey gravy. (Wipes drool from chin.) Then, to end the night, a trip down to Stafford to see Sean’s parents, where they had ALL THE PIES.

Yeah, I think it was a pretty good Thanksgiving. 🙂

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Posted on Nov 13, 2012 in Dear Diary | 26 comments

Exciting Announcements

Hi there, amigos! I hope you all have had a great weekend/week so far. I had yesterday off from work in honor of our brave veterans, and today I have a couple of exciting pieces of news for you all!

So first off, I have some relatively exciting (day)job related stuff. Part of the reason I’ve been so busy, and not blogging as regularly/in as timely a manner lately (er, beyond the whole “I’m publishing a book thing“, hehe) is that I’m actually transitioning into a new position at work! I’m not 100% in my new job yet, I’m in kind of a dual-job limbo right now, but that means there’s a lot of running back and forth (my new position is in a different building a couple blocks away from my old one) and a lot of training and whatnot. Still, a lot of changes and things to keep me busy, which is kind of a good thing!

My second piece of news may actually be a little upsetting to some of you. See, for years now, I have been a devoted Apple fangirl. Early adopter of each new iPhone model I’ve been eligible for, I’ve also been in love with the Macbook I got my senior year of college (even after I accidentally cracked the glass display with the heel of my foot… oops), Apple has never let me down. And yet, this weekend, something happened…

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Whoops?

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Yep, I am now the proud owner of an Acer Aspire S7 Ultrabook. 13.3″ screen, white and aluminum, and like, 3 pounds. Sa-weet.

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Complete with Windows 8, I tested this puppy out for the first time a week or so prior, and was immediately smitten. I thought I’d had my heart really set on getting a Macbook Air, as my old Macbook has been increasingly slow (and, you know, cracked…) but was going to wait a while before doing so. As it turns out, however, my old laptop had other intentions. Recently, the wifi stopped working on my laptop, so I knew it was time to start the replacement process.

Sean and I stopped in the Microsoft Store at Tysons a week or so ago, to check out their new Surface tablets. While we were there, I started looking at the new laptops, all fitted with Windows 8, and was seriously blown away. The new system is really intuitive, looks GREAT, and was just a lot of fun. Plus, the aesthetics of some of their new machines (especially my new Acer), really give Apple a run for its money. I know that for some of you, looks are the least important part of a computer, but c’mon, nobody’s immune to a really sleek-looking comp. We left the store that day and the cogs were already turning, trying to weigh what I already knew about Macbooks (sleek, fast, great design, reliable) with what I liked about the new PC Ultrabooks.

We went back to the store this past weekend to check them out some more, and after spending over an hour in the store (and watching a Windows 8 demo, etc), I knew what I wanted. Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the best part!

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Yep, my new ultrabook has a TOUCHSCREEN. A super responsive and awesome one, too. They say that Windows 8 really was made for touchscreen, and I believe it. I love getting to scroll through things with a swipe of my hand, and it really feels seamless. That said, if you are considering getting Windows 8 installed on your non-touch computer, I’ve heard that it’s a fairly disappointing experience because all those buttons just scream “TOUCH ME!” (Um, in a non-sexual way, obvi.)

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I painted this WITH MY HANDS. Well, and with a ridicuslouly overpriced touchscreen paintbrush that I couldn’t NOT get. I mean, c’mon. I know I’m no fine artist, but dang it if touchscreen doesn’t make it fun to try.

So, there you have it. A couple of exciting snippets for you. Oh, I had a third one, too. Slightly less exciting to normal people, but to people like me who are obsessed with food, this one is a good’n. I’ve officially started testing out new Thanksgiving recipes, which means it is GOOD EATIN’ TIME in my casa.

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Last night’s dinner extraordinatire involved a new recipe for mashed potatoes that I’m trying out (I determined that my Roasted Garlic Whipped Potatoes recipe is still the reigning champ though).

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I paired the ‘taters with a side of maple and bacon brussels sprouts (amazeballs as always!).

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And a pork chop with a cinnamon apple and onion chutney (or something). Which was effing delicious.

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NOMs all around!

Are you a Mac or a PC? I like to think at this point, I’m a bit of both! I’ve got my PC desktop, my old Macbook, my new ultrabook, and my iPhone 5. Not to mention my brother has his PC dekstop, plus an 11-inch Macbook Air, plus an iPad (and an iPhone 5 as well). Our house is not only biracial, but bicomputersal as well.

Okay, that was lame. I’m done.

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